Montreal

1 million chickens wasted in Quebec slaughterhouse as labour dispute drags on

One million chickens have been euthanized due to a strike at a slaughterhouse in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, and the province's labour minister wants to step in.

Employer accepts minister's arbitration offer, union is considering it

The Exceldor co-operative estimates the lost chickens would have made for about four million meals. (Pascal Poinlane/Radio-Canada)

Quebec's labour minister is hoping to help to end a labour dispute at a slaughterhouse in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, after about a million chickens were euthanized.

Minister Jean Boulet has offered to arbitrate negotiations between the Exceldor co-operative and more than 500 of its unionized employees who work in Saint-Ansèlme, Que., about 45 minutes south of Quebec City.

The employees have been on strike for more than three weeks, following months of negotiations that went nowhere despite the help of a mediator.

The strike has forced producers to send chickens to a rendering plant to process them for products other than food. The co-operative estimates the lost chickens would have made for about four million meals.

Exceldor has said it is in favour of the minister arbitrating the dispute, but on Wednesday, the union representing workers at the slaughterhouse said it would not accept the minister's offer, since mediation sessions are scheduled this week. 

"If we go in that direction, it'll take away our ability to negotiate," said Jacques Roy, a representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). 

This will likely not sit well with the Quebec government.

The slaughterhouse for the Exceldor co-operative is located in Saint-Ansèlme, Que., about 45 minutes south of Quebec City. (Carl Boivin/Radio-Canada)

On Wednesday morning, André Lamontagne, the province's minister of agriculture, fisheries and food, said it makes no sense for the union to decline the minister's offer.

"As soon as one party accepts arbitration, there is nothing that justifies [that the union] does not accept it," Lamontagne said. "The position that the union should take in front of all of Quebec is to accept arbitration and put an end to the waste."

The province's largest farmers' union, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), is also pressuring employees to put an end to the labour dispute.

The slaughterhouse's employees have been without a contract since the end of July 2020. Salaries and working conditions are among the main sticking points in negotiations.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada

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