Workers walk outside the Olymel pork-processing plant in Vallee-Jonction, Que., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Quebec pork producers are asking the government to intervene and end the ongoing labour strike at the Olymel slaughterhouse in Vallée-Jonction, south of Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec pork industry says thousands of pigs risk being euthanized if strike continues

Quebec pork industry says thousands of pigs risk being euthanized if strike continues

MONTREAL — A labour strike at a Quebec pork-processing plant is creating a dangerous backlog of pigs ready for slaughter, putting thousands of animals at risk of going to waste, says the head of an association of pork producers.

“Considering that a single pig can provide around 600 meals, the potential for waste is astronomical,” David Duval said in a recent interview.

Duval’s group, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec, is asking Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet to force the management of the Olymel plant in Vallée-Jonction, Que., south of Quebec City, and their employees to restart negotiations.

“We have done everything to try to move our animals as much as possible,” Duval said. “Every week, we have an increase in the number of pigs waiting. These are pigs that have reached the slaughter stage but cannot be slaughtered.”

About 130,000 pigs were ready for slaughter last week in Quebec but some were instead transported to Alberta and the United States, Duval said.

The backlog is creating overcrowding, he added, causing the animals to become aggressive, which isn’t good for their health. If they can’t be properly slaughtered and processed they will be euthanized instead, he said.

The Labour Department acknowledges the conflict risks causing major problems in the pork industry and says it intends to try and bring both sides back to the negotiation table. “A conciliator was already appointed and we will continue to support the parties until the conflict is resolved,” a spokesperson for the department told The Canadian Press Monday.

Olymel said on July 30 it had accepted a settlement proposal from the conciliation team, but the labour union said it had received no salary offer from the company over the past few days.

“The proposal from the conciliation team contained all the elements capable of rallying the two parties,” Olymel vice-president Paul Beauchamp said in a statement. “The attitude of union is incomprehensible and will only delay the resolution of a conflict that has lasted too long.”

Employees at the plant have been on strike since April 28. Martin Maurice, head of the labour union affiliated with Confédération des syndicats nationaux, issued a news release July 30 saying members expected a more serious offer from Olymel.

“Our members are more mobilized than ever, and we will do everything to have a collective agreement that lives up to the respect we deserve,” he said.

Duval, however, said Monday in a news release the stalled negotiations are “a slap in the face to thousands of pig farmers who, day after day, for more than three months, have been living in distress and are doing their best to manage their pigs in overcrowded buildings.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 2, 2021.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press