The Quebec government has brought in a mediator to try to restart labour talks that stalled ahead of a strike at one of the province’s biggest poultry plants.
Provincial Labour Minister Jean Boulet on Friday named Helene Poulin as a special mediator on the labour dispute at the Exceldor poultry plant at Saint-Anselme, about 30 km southeast of Quebec City in the Chaudiere-Appalaches region.
The plant’s 500-odd unionized workers, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (TUAC) Local 1991-P, went on strike May 23 after voting to reject the Exceldor co-operative’s final contract offer. The workers’ previous contract expired last July 31.
Poulin, a chief mediator at the provincial labour ministry, will work with conciliator Richard Fortin — who the province appointed separately in March to work on this dispute — to help steer the co-operative and union toward an agreement in principle, the province said.
A work stoppage at the plant, which can handle nearly a million chickens per week, has significant economic impacts for the retail grocery sector as well as for the restaurant sector, which is gradually resuming operations, Boulet said in a release.
That said, he added, the province respects workers’ right to strike and believes a negotiated agreement would allow work at the plant to resume to the benefit of both the workers and the company.
“I have confidence that Mme Poulin’s intervention in the case will allow the dispute to be settled as soon as possible,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Andre Lamontagne, in the same release, warned that a prolonged labour dispute could have “negative impacts for producers as well as processors and distributors.”
TUAC Local 1991-P, in a May 24 statement announcing the strike, said wages are the main sticking point in the dispute, but also alleged Exceldor, in its final offer, “closed the door” on negotiations over other union demands, such as insurance.
Exceldor also operates plants at Saint-Damase, Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville and Saint-Agapit in Quebec, as well as at Winnipeg and at Hanover, Ont., all of which combined with Saint-Anselme process almost two million chickens and turkeys per week.
The co-operative, whose products are sold under the Exceldor, Butterball, Granny’s and Lacroix brands, also co-owns processors including Viandes Lacroix, Unidindon and Volailles Giannone in Quebec and Golden Valley in Ontario. — Glacier FarmMedia Network