Olymel to consolidate ham work next fall

(Olymel.com)

The meat packing arm of Quebec’s La Coop federee plans to shut down major ham lines at one of its further-processing plants in the province next year, cutting up to 340 jobs.

Olymel said Friday it will halt ham deboning at its St-Hyacinthe plant in September 2017, eliminating 340 positions.

Ham deboning work, until now the St-Hyacinthe plant’s designated specialty, will instead be done at plants with both slaughtering and butchering operations, Olymel said.

That move, the company said, will “improv(e) operational efficiency and reducing costs considerably, in terms of both fixed costs and shipping.”

Olymel’s hog slaughter and butchering plants — at St-Esprit, Yamachiche and Vallee-Jonction — are “now geographically closer to the further-processing plants they supply with raw materials,” the company said.

The St-Hyacinthe plant will remain open, but with about 70 staff handling frozen product storage operations and a rendering line for lard production.

Olymel said Friday it’s also “studying various options to find a new vocation for the plant, which would enable it to fulfill other needs for the company.”

Olymel in June announced expansion work at its St-Esprit hog plant, which it said at the time would begin to handle greater output of “value-added” products and chilled pork.

The company in June also announced a Quebec City-area sausage plant at St-Henri-de-Levis would be repurposed for ham processing, after Olymel bought Trois-Rivieres sausage maker La Fernandiere and said it would move its sausage lines to that company’s plant.

The cut at St-Hyacinthe was “a difficult decision, but a necessary one if we are to achieve the conditions of efficiency and profitability that will enable us to maintain the bulk of other jobs across all our operations, and even create new ones,” Olymel CEO Rejean Nadeau said Friday in a release.

The job cuts, he said, were “deemed necessary after a thorough analysis of processing costs with a view to making all our operations more efficient.”

Olymel’s St-Hyacinthe plant saw a work stoppage in 2009, with unionized workers reportedly protesting a proposed wage freeze following a major pay cut in 2005, when the plant was said to be under threat of closure.

“I have requested that everything be done to facilitate the transition for employees assigned to another position, or their relocation to another Olymel facility,” Nadeau said Friday.

A plan has been set up and a relocation committee formed to move affected employees to other Olymel plants within a 70-km radius of St-Hyacinthe, the company said.

Apart from its pork slaughter and butchering plants, Olymel noted it operates other Quebec food processing plants at Drummondville, Ste-Rosalie, St-Damase and St-Jean-Baptiste, and “other types” of operations at St-Bruno, Boucherville and St-Valerien.

La Coop federee said earlier this year it plans to sell an ownership stake of up to 49 per cent in Olymel, to fund the co-operative’s plans for further expansions in pork processing and ag retail in Western Canada. — AGCanada.com Network

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