After having implemented all the public health recommendations of the public health department of the Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre, Olymel's hog slaughter and cutting plant in Yamachiche will resume operations starting April 14. With the help from public health authorities and its partners at the plant, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Commission des normes, de l’équité et de la santé et sécurité du travail and the TUAC-Local 1991-P union, Olymel took advantage of the 14-day closure starting March 29 to implement a new protocol, the main objective of which is to protect workers' health and fight the spread of COVID-19.
Employees who have been in isolation since March 29 are being recalled according to a list approved by public health authorities. They must not exhibit any symptoms related to COVID-19. Employees are recalled in accordance with the provisions of the employment contract. Starting Tuesday morning, the first group of employees will be received at the plant by a team of people trained to give them instructions about the new protocol, which has been adapted for work in a slaughterhouse and related activities such as cutting and packaging. A station will be set up at the plant entrance where everyone will answer a questionnaire. Olymel has recruited a medical expert, Serge Dubuc, specialist in occupational medicine. He and an occupational hygiene technician from the CIUSSS-MCQ will be on site Tuesday to supervise the return to work.
Protocol with strict preventative measures
Although all of the measures recommended by public health have been applied in all Olymel plants since the beginning of the pandemic, the configuration of the work environment in a slaughterhouse and cutting plant requires particular adaptation. For example, when the distance of two meters cannot be respected between two working stations, a mitigation measure is instituted such as the installation of separating panels and the wearing of a mask and protective visor, under the recommendation of l’Institut national de santé publique du Québec, and in addition to all the other protections already in place. There will be increased monitoring and screening activities and permanent signs to raise awareness and promote responsibility. Hygiene and disinfection measures will be rigorously enforced.
Olymel has been paying particular attention to the transportation of employees coming from outside the Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec region using shuttles, and the situation is being closely monitored in collaboration with the employment agencies. The shuttles will only be able to operate if they respect a distance of two meters between passengers. Agency workers will be monitored and public health authority recommendations must be followed.
Olymel will continue the bonus program it announced on March 23 for all employees who are paid hourly wages, until further notice. The program will also be extended to include overtime.
The plant's production capacity will be adapted to the number of employees available to carry out various tasks, which may affect the type of products produced and the slaughter capacity. Olymel is working closely with partners in the hog industry to ensure that the flow of hogs continues as normally as possible in order to avoid last-resort solutions like compassionate slaughter or euthanasia at the farm. Before the pandemic, the Yamachiche plant's weekly slaughter capacity was 28,000 hogs. The company is hoping to gradually return to that capacity, depending on the way the situation evolves. The priority will always be keeping its workers safe.
"On behalf of Olymel management, I would like to thank all of the Yamachiche plant employees, who have been following lockdown instructions since March 29 and have agreed to come back to work on April 14 in these current difficult circumstances. To everyone at the Yamachiche plant and our other Olymel plants who has tested positive for COVID-19, we wish you a speedy recovery. I salute all the employees who are helping us answer the government's call to provide an essential service that feeds millions of people in lockdown. Finally, I would like to thank all of our partners and representatives, clients and suppliers, elected officials and government decisionmakers who are working with us through this difficult time," says Réjean Nadeau, president and CEO of Olymel.