The COVID-19 coronavirus has made its way into the labour pool at a major pork packing plant in Quebec’s Mauricie region, forcing a two-week shutdown.
Olymel, the meat packing arm of Quebec-based Sollio Co-operative Group, announced Sunday it will temporarily close its hog slaughter and cutting plant at Yamachiche, about 20 km west of Trois-Rivieres, for 14 days starting Sunday.
This temporary closure affects almost 1,000 employees, who will be offered “all the help and information they need in order to benefit from the government’s current financial assistance programs.”
The move stems from a “growing number of cases of COVID-19 among plant employees, which has reached nine,” the company said Sunday in a release. “The decision was made partly to protect the workers, and partly to limit community transmission.”
The Centre integre universitaire de sante at de services sociaux de la Mauricie-et-du-Centre-du-Quebec’s (CIUSSS MCQ) public health department has recommended 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 said.
The company said its management will work in collaboration provincial public health and agriculture officials and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on “a plan to resume operations with stronger measures in order to ensure an even safer workplace.”
As for the hog farmers who supply the Yamachiche plant, Olymel said it plans to follow up with those suppliers and “make the necessary decisions,” but noted the plant closure will not affect pork products’ distribution to local markets.
The Yamachiche plant has capacity to slaughter up to 40,000 hogs per week, following a two-year, $120 million expansion and renovation completed last spring at the former Atrahan facility.
About 60 per cent of the plant’s production goes for export to about 50 countries, Olymel said previously.
Company CEO Rejean Nadeau, in Sunday’s release, called on staff working at other plants to “exercise constant vigilance to avoid the spread of COVID-19.”
Olymel and its workers, he said, “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.”
As of Sunday evening, Quebec had reported 2,840 cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 22 deaths attributed to the disease. — Glacier FarmMedia Network