A chicken processor in northwest New Brunswick is being accused of putting too much pressure on its workers to help save the company.
Nadeau Poultry, which is located in Saint-François, near Edmundston, has been asking the provincial government to set up new regulations to protect it from a rival company that is building its own plant nearby, a move that could put Nadeau out of business.
Along with the formal negotiations between the company and the provincial government, there have been protests held by workers in the region and outside the provincial legislature.
The company and its workers are concerned they may soon lose their jobs. Thousands of chickens are coming through the Nadeau chicken processing plant every day but that could soon change when the rival facility is opened.
Ed Landry, a worker with Nadeau Poultry, said the competition has led to stress and tension in the workforce.
'She said, `If I wasn't here today I wouldn't get paid, so I had to come over here today because I can't lose any money.' — PC MLA Yvon Bonenfant
"It's just the not knowing. Not knowing if I'm going to have a job next week, next year," he said.
The stress being put on Nadeau workers may not be limited to the threat of the looming competition.
Luc Bergeron, a former union representative, said Nadeau itself has added to the stress on its employees by pressuring workers to join its lobbying efforts and making them feel responsible for saving the company.
It is not just the union official who is claiming the company is putting pressure on the staff.
Madawaska-les-Lacs Progressive Conservative MLA Yvon Bonenfant said one Nadeau worker at a recent legislature protest told him she was forced to attend the event.
"She said, `If I wasn't here today I wouldn't get paid, so I had to come over here today because I can't lose any money," Bonenfant said.
Manager denies pressure allegations
Yves Landry, the general manager of Nadeau Poultry, said the allegations that the company is putting pressure on employees to help save the company are not true.
"It's their choice. It's their choice to come on board and do that," he said.
The company building the new plant, Westco, says it will hire Nadeau's workers but many are refusing to apply.
Westco's owners say that, too, is because of pressure from Nadeau Poultry.
The chicken dispute has been going on since 2009.
In September 2009, Westco diverted all of its chickens from Nadeau Poultry, which was processing the chickens, to their partner Olymel’s plant in Quebec.
Westco wanted to buy the Nadeau plant, but was turned down. So, they're building their own facility, just down the road.
Nadeau currently has the only chicken plant in New Brunswick and once controlled all poultry processing.
The company already laid off 175 employees in 2009.
In January, about 60 poultry workers were laid off at Nadeau Poultry.
Nadeau has tried to fight Westco's plans through a series of legal challenges. But those have failed.
Most recently, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal from Nadeau Poultry.