Quebec pork plant to restart at reduced pace

Olymel plant closed due to COVID-19 cases


Olymel plans to gradually bring a hog plant in Quebec’s Mauricie region out of a two-week shutdown starting Tuesday following a number of COVID-19 cases among its employees.

The meat packing arm of Quebec-based Sollio Co-operative Group announced Saturday it will resume slaughter and cutting operations at Yamachiche, Que. starting Tuesday.

Nine people working at the plant had were found to have COVID-19 at the time of the shutdown on March 29.

Olymel said Saturday it has implemented all the recommendations from regional public health officials and the Centre-du-Quebec Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS MCQ) and “took advantage of the 14-day closure… to implement a new protocol.”

The plant’s production capacity, which before the pandemic was at about 28,000 hogs per week, “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 said.

But the company added it plans to work to ensure “the flow of hogs continues as normally as possible in order to avoid last-resort solutions like compassionate slaughter or euthanasia at the farm.”

Olymel said it hopes to “gradually return” to its pre-pandemic weekly slaughter capacity, “depending on the way the situation evolves,” adding its priority “will always be keeping its workers safe.”

On top of the measures already in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the configuration of a kill-and-cut plant’s work environment “requires particular adaptation,” the company said, including “mitigation” measures such as separating panels, masks and visors, in cases where a two-metre distance between work stations can’t be put in place.

Olymel said it has also been “paying particular attention” to the transport of employees being shuttled to the plant from outside the Mauricie and Centre-du-Quebec region, and those shuttles “will only be able to operate if they respect a distance of two meters between passengers.”

Plant employees who have been in isolation since March 29 “are being recalled according to a list approved by public health authorities,” and must not exhibit any symptoms related to COVID-19, the company said.

Olymel also said it will continue the bonus program it announced on March 23 for all employees who are paid hourly wages, until further notice, and will extend that program to include overtime.

Company CEO Rejean Nadeau, in Saturday’s release, thanked 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.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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