August 31, workers at Olymel's pork processing plant in
Vallée-Jonction, Quebec voted 78 per cent in favour of the
tentative agreement reached with the company two days earlier. This
puts an end to the strike which started on April 28.
In a press release, the Olymel Workers Union in Vallée-Jonction (CSN) presented the main features of the agreement.
"We have agreed to a new six-year work contract during which we will
receive wage increases of 26.4 per cent, including 10 per cent in the
first year. In addition to the 4.4 per cent average increase per year,
we also received a lump sum payment of $65 per year of service per
member," said Martin Maurice, president of the union.
"We also obtained a 50 per cent increase in the employer's
contribution to our group insurance for family coverage, which brings
the total increase for the first year to 12.48 per cent. The result of
the vote shows us that our members are satisfied with the gains we have
made. We made the choice to significantly improve the wages of all the
workers and that is exactly what we finally got," Maurice added.
In 2007, Vallée-Jonction workers lost nearly 40 per cent of
their wages under the threat that Olymel would close the plant. Prior
to the ratification of the new collective agreement, the majority of
union members earned only $1.13 per hour more than in 2007, an average
annual increase of $0.08 per hour over 14 years. A meaningful wage
catch-up was a key demand of the workers.
It was necessary to achieve wages that workers consider acceptable
in today's conditions. It was also necessary to retain workers at the
plant where turnover is high due to low wages and poor working
conditions. The union estimates that between 2015 and 2021, more than
1,800 people were hired at Vallée-Jonction and in the same
period nearly 1,700 left their jobs.
Workers lost their pension plan in 2007, also under threat of
closure. Under the new agreement, a simplified defined-contribution
pension plan is to be established. It will come into effect during the
last two years of the agreement, with a total Olymel contribution of
1.5 per cent during those years.
Following the ratification of the agreement, everything needed to resume operations was quickly set in motion.
Mechanics went to work on September 1. The plant was sanitized on
September 2. On September 3 production begins with the slaughter of
some hogs. All the workers will return to work on September 7 when
operations will resume in full.
Workers' Forum salutes the Olymel
workers for waging
a courageous struggle in Vallée-Jonction. They have fought with
conviction and brought
honour to themselves and to their
region. This contribution to the fight for the dignity of
particularly for the workers in the slaughterhouses and meat
industry who face some of the most exploitative working conditions
country will encourage others that change is possible.
Olymel used its control of 80 per cent of Quebec's pork slaughter
capacity and its media connections to try to mobilize the people
against the workers who were depicted as causing harm to hog farmers
and the food supply for the public. The longer the strike went on, the
more intense the media propaganda became that the workers would be
responsible for the euthanasia of over 130,000 hogs. Olymel also
resurrected its threat to close the plant.
At the eleventh hour Olymel said they would eliminate the evening
shift if the workers did not ratify the contract. This would have
caused the loss of 500 jobs.
The Legault government and its labour minister remained silent on
all these provocations while hypocritically claiming to be supporting a
negotiated settlement of the dispute.
The Olymel workers did not flinch and persisted in defending the claims they are entitled to make as a matter of right.
Union president Martin Maurice told Workers' Forum:
"The workers fought. They were not afraid of the closure. Some media
outlets have said that 'You were afraid of closure, that's why you
accepted the tentative agreement.' No, we were not afraid to fight and
were not afraid of closure. It was the opposite. There were four things
we wanted to achieve when we negotiated over the last weekend. We got
three out of the four. That's why the workers accepted the agreement
and not because of the threat of closure."
Bravo to the Olymel workers! You have inspired all workers by waging this just struggle in the most difficult conditions!