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Union responds to Olymel layoffs

No one can afford to be unemployed in this affordability crisis: UFCW
The Food and Commercial Workers Union, representing workers at Olymel’s Red Deer pork processing plant, is calling on the Alberta government to provide financial help to the sluggish industry to save jobs. (File photo by Advocate staff)

The union representing Red Deer’s laid-off Olymel workers is calling on the Alberta government to provide financial relief for the “sluggish industry.”

“Workers are facing unprecedented challenges due to the global affordability crisis. No one wants to contemplate unemployment for any amount of time on top of that,” said United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 401 president Thomas Hesse.

The local meat processing plant announced 100 workers lay-offs were planned to deal with undesirable market conditions in the pork industry.

Thirty layoff notices have already been sent out at Olymel, with the next 30 expected to be given out next week.

“While we understand that Olymel expects these adjustments will be temporary and remains confident about the future viability of the plant, our union believes it is time for the provincial government to step up and provide tangible relief for food workers and their families,” added Hesse.

Since an industry-wide slowdown is challenging the pork processing plant, the UFCW Local 401 is calling on the provincial government to provide some financial relief for the industry to avert layoffs.

The federal government rolled out a subsidy program during the pandemic to prevent job losses, so providing some kinds of assistance is possible, explained a union representative.

Saving these jobs would not require a substantial investment from government, said Hesse. “It’s time for the Government of Alberta to … come to the assistance of Olymel workers whose jobs are impacted by layoffs.”

He noted food banks in Red Deer have seen a massive increase in demand for emergency food hampers in recent years. Given the financial pressures working families face, that is not surprising, Hesse added.

While UFCW Local 401 is assisting impacted workers with their unemployment insurance claims, any period of unemployment is difficult with the cost of living at 40-year highs, stated the union in a release on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen the impacts of this affordability crisis all over,” said Hesse. “Working people are looking for help to stop the squeeze of inflation.”

Hesse said the union is communicating with Olymel officials to try to find ways to minimize the impacts of layoffs and to ensure no contract provisions or laws are breached.

A government representative could not be reached to comment late on Tuesday afternoon.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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