VALLEE-JONCTION, Quebec — In the most important union fight taking place in the province, union officials and bosses at the Olymel hog slaughterhouse here announced another tentative agreement Aug. 14. Five days earlier, 1,050 workers who’ve been on strike since April 28 rejected a proposed contract containing the bosses’ demand to impose a 10-hour workday. Workers, members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, voted “no” by 82%.
Olymel brags that it’s the largest pork producer in Canada, able to slaughter 185,000 hogs a week — as well as 2.4 million turkeys and chickens — with annual revenues of 4.5 billion Canadian dollars ($3.6 billion).
Another key issue is wages. Workers took a 38% pay cut in 2007 when the company threatened to close down operations. “Our members have only seen an increase of $1.13 in 14 years” since then, Martin Maurice, union president, told CNW Telbec Aug. 3. “The job is very demanding, and there are more than 400 work accidents a year.”
Going door to door in the area to build solidarity with the strike — including explaining the need for small working farmers and workers to stand together — Militant correspondents met Dave Dufour, whose shoulder was injured while working at the plant. Even a shorter shift is difficult, Dufour said. “We do repetitive movements. It’s not human. Workers should continue to fight” against a 10-hour shift.
On the picket line we met several strikers who are immigrants with work permits that allow them to work only at Olymel.
With production shut down tight, Olymel bosses put public pressure on strikers to return to work by threatening to euthanize 130,000 hogs that the company has been unable to process. The strike has impacted both small family hog farmers and larger capitalist ones who are unable to sell their pigs with the plant shut down.
Send solidarity messages and financial contributions to Syndicat des Travailleurs d’Olymel, Vallee-Jonction, 243 Rue Principale, Vallee-Jonction, QC G0S 3J0 Canada.