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N.S. to meet with laid-off ACA workers

Staff from Nova Scotia’s labour and workforce development department have gone to Kentville to start meeting with about 300 workers facing layoffs from two major poultry processing plants.

ACA Co-operative plans to permanently close its money-losing Eastern Protein Foods, putting almost 190 people out of work by early March, the co-operative’s management told reporters Thursday.

As well, ACA said it will permanently cut about 40 non-union jobs at its other Kings Country processing plant and lay off another 75 unionized workers.

“We arrived at a point where we either had to make major changes to the way we do business or risk losing our entire operation,” ACA CEO Ian Blenkharn told the Halifax Chronicle Herald on Thursday.

The worker support team that went to Kentville Thursday was led by Nova Scotia Labour and Workforce Development and Service Canada, and includes the department of economic and rural development, department of community services and the Kings Community Economic Development Agency.

“This is an extremely trying time for the people at ACA and Eastern Protein, and we are there to ensure they receive any outstanding salaries, vacation pay and severance, and to help them find other jobs,” said Mark Parent, the province’s labour minister as well as its agriculture minister, in a release Friday.

Affected workers can attend an information session next week, the province said. During that meeting, Service Canada staff are expected to advise employees who are being laid off about their employment insurance entitlements.

Provincial staff are to talk about support available from the provincial government, the province said Friday. The employees will be assessed to determine their skills and employability status. Training and support will be developed to help them improve skills, get certified in trades they learned informally on the job, and strengthen essential workplace skills such as literacy and math.

ACA, which is owned by over five dozen poultry-producing members and sells its products under the EdenValley Farms and Valley House brands, said in the Chronicle Herald that its hatchery, feed and egg divisions remain unaffected.

ACA, which started in New Minas, N.S. in 1943 and was recenty ranked as Canada’s 36th-largest co-operative, launched its EdenValley brand in 1997 and Valley House in 1994, the same year it bought full control of Eastern Protein.

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