Olymel announced March 29 the temporary closure of the hog slaughter and cutting plant in Yamachiche for a period of 14 days due to the growing number of cases of COVID-19 among plant employees, which has reached nine. The temporary closure, which started the day of the announcement, will affect nearly 1,000 employees.
In collaboration with the Mauricie-et-duCentre-du-Québec Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS MCQ) public health department, the company said the decision was made partly to protect the workers, and partly to limit community transmission.
Olymel will offer its employees all the help and information they need in order to benefit from the government’s current financial assistance programs.
The public health department recommended that all employees who have worked at the plant since March 12 self-isolate as a precaution, monitor themselves for symptoms, and adopt social distancing measures in order to protect their loved ones.
Olymel management said it will work in collaboration with public health, the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec, to establish a plan to resume operations with stronger measures in order to ensure an even safer workplace.
Olymel believes, as it has since the beginning of this health crisis, that the health of its employees must be prioritized over any other consideration.
Still, closing this important part of the food supply chain, even temporarily, is a challenge, the company said.
“Olymel will follow up with its suppliers, particularly the hog farmers who supply the plant, and make the necessary decisions,” the company said, adding that the temporary closure will not affect the distribution of products to local markets.
“On behalf of Olymel management, I would like to express our gratitude to all the employees of the Yamachiche plant for their efforts since the beginning of this health crisis. In collaboration with human resources, I would ask all of our other employees working in plants that are still in operation to exercise constant vigilance to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Our company and its employees will therefore be able to contribute to the continued operations of the agro-processing industry, which governments consider to be an essential activity for supplying distribution networks with the products needed to feed a population that is mostly in lockdown,” said Réjean Nadeau, president and chief executive officer of Olymel.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in Canada, Olymel has increased its recommendations and implemented a variety of measures applying public health recommendations to the letter and has adjusted to the evolving situation by establishing new measures. The company also recruited two medical experts to help it through the process and has mobilized management, operations and human resources personnel to communicate and apply measures to prevent and fight the spread of the coronavirus in its facilities.