Olymel to shut pared-back Que. chicken plant

Quebec meat packer Olymel has served layoff notices to all the remaining staff at a poultry plant where operations were already cut in half last summer.

The company said Friday it will “continue the restructuring of operations begun last year” at the further processing and pre-packaging plant in the Iberville district of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal.

The plant — where 183 employees were let go in July last year when their work was moved to three other plants in Eastern Canada — will halt operations Aug. 19, putting its other 120 staff out of work.

Olymel’s only remaining operations at Iberville will be at the adjacent distribution centre, where 15 people will continue work.

Before July 2010, the plant was processing and packaging skewers, tournedos, souvlaki, fresh traypack products and deboned chicken thighs. The deboning and pre-packaging work were then moved to plants at Berthierville, Que., Ste-Rosalie, Que. and Brampton, Ont.

Since then, however, “market conditions have not improved and current low production volumes for chicken tournedos and skewers no longer justify continued operation of the Iberville plant,” Olymel CEO Rejean Nadeau said in a release.

Most of Iberville’s production volume in tournedos and skewers will be taken over by a nearby Olymel plant in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, following over $500,000 in renovations to be done at the latter plant.

That renovation and added work are expected to create about 30 new jobs at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Those jobs will be offered first to employees laid off from the Iberville plant, Olymel said.

The changes should generate “significant economies of scale in our operations,” Nadeau said, emphasizing Olymel “does not take the decision to cut these jobs lightly.”

A “job placement committee” will be set up at Iberville to help laid-off workers find new jobs or relocate to other Olymel plants.

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