More than 800 employees at Olymel's hog slaughterhouse and cutting plants in Yamachiche (Mauricie), St-Esprit (Lanaudière), and Ange-Gardien (Montérégie) volunteered to work overtime shifts Saturday in order to reduce the number of hogs ready for slaughter and avoid euthanizing them. Given the impact of COVID-19 on the activities of the food processing sector, including slowdowns caused by lack of workers, the temporary closure of Olymel's Yamachiche plant and the reduced capacity of other slaughterhouses, the number of hogs ready for slaughter has never been so high in Quebec, exceeding the 100,000 head mark. The closure of many slaughterhouses in the United States has also deprived Olymel of an outlet that would have allowed it to deliver the surplus of hogs ready for slaughter in Quebec and Ontario to high-capacity American plants.
Several other employees from Olymel's St-Hyacinthe plant and Agromex's St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Sherrington plants lent a hand in this effort to reduce the number of hogs ready for slaughter and help their colleagues from the three slaughterhouses and cutting plants involved. They supported this initiative through packaging and storage activities while also contributing to the philanthropic aspect.
Over the past two months, at the peak of the current pandemic, Olymel was unable to gather the number of employees required for additional slaughter shifts as a result of absences related to either confirmed COVID-19 cases, preventive isolation of other employees, suspension of inter-regional transport or closure of schools. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Olymel has implemented extensive health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and better protect the health of its workers in all its facilities. After slowdowns and interruptions, Olymel's hog slaughterhouse and cutting plants in Quebec have now regained more than 95% of their slaughtering capacity.
In addition to reducing the number of hogs ready for slaughter, relieving the burden on farmers and avoiding euthanizing hogs, Olymel management, volunteer employees and their union representatives were keen to make the day even more useful. On Saturday, the company also raised funds to help underprivileged people and the organizations that support them. The day had two philanthropic components:
- Two dollars for each hog slaughtered was donated to a charitable organization or cause chosen by the employees of each of the three establishments, up to a maximum of $5,000
- In cooperation with les Cuisines solidaires of La Tablée des Chefs, Olymel provided food to prepare three meals for each employee present during this additional slaughter day, which represented the equivalent of more than 2,000 meals to deliver to Moisson Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec for the Yamachiche plant, to Moisson Lanaudière for the St-Esprit plant and to S.O.S. Dépannage-Moisson-Granby for the Ange-Gardien facility.
"Thanks to the precautions and health measures rigorously implemented in all our facilities, Olymel is now able to find solutions to the backlog of hogs ready for slaughter. Adding extra shifts would be impossible without the cooperation of our employees and their union representatives. I therefore commend the commitment of the CSD union at our Ange-Gardien plant in Montérégie, as well as that of the United Food and Commercial Workers, TUAC-Local 1991-P, at our plants in St-Esprit (Lanaudière) and Yamachiche (Mauricie). I am grateful that they not only agreed to add hours to their workload after already very busy weeks, but also that they have combined this exceptional effort with helping Les Moissons du Québec, families and people in need at a time when mutual assistance is as essential as the activities of the food supply chain," says Réjean Nadeau, president and CEO of Olymel.