Montreal

Tentative deal reached in labour dispute at Olymel meat plant

Union and management representatives of the Olymel pork processing-plant in Quebec's Beauce region have reached a second agreement in principle, just weeks after workers rejected their first amid the five-month labour dispute. 

Olymel has paused its threat to cut 500 jobs until workers vote on the deal

Some 1,100 workers of the Beauce region Olymel pork plant have been on strike since April. (Radio-Canada)

Union and management representatives of the Olymel pork processing-plant in Quebec's Beauce region have reached a second agreement in principle, just weeks after workers rejected their first.

The labour dispute has been dragging on for five months. The deal comes after Labour Minister Jean Boulet called the parties in for a meeting with an arbitrator. 

About 1,100 workers at the plant in Vallée-Jonction, Que., have been on strike since late April. The factory is one of the largest in the province, receiving between 35,000 and 37,000 pigs every week.

Nearly 60 per cent of the workers rejected an agreement in principle the two parties had come to earlier this month. Working conditions, salary and vacation pay are were among the main sticking points. 

The dispute has been a nightmarish scenario for pork producers, who say they have been saddled with about 150,000 pigs they are unable to send to the slaughterhouse.

Farmers have said they may have no choice but to euthanize them.

Vallée-Jonction Mayor Réal Bisson said he's hopeful workers will vote in favour of the most recent deal. 

"I'm very happy," Bisson said. "Obviously the workers still need to endorse it, but I'm confident they will." 

Olymel management had threatened to cut the night shift at the plant if the union didn't agree to a deal by Sunday, which would result in the loss of 500 jobs. 

It has agreed to put that plan on hold until Wednesday to allow workers to vote on the latest agreement in principle.

Boulet tweeted Sunday evening that the mediation session had "bore fruit" and that workers would be voting on the deal Tuesday at the union's general assembly. 

Radio-Canada spoke with two workers picketing outside the plant Monday morning. 

One said he just wanted the dispute to be over, while the other said he would wait to see the deal before deciding how to vote. 

With files from Shuyee Lee and Radio-Canada's Hadi Hassin

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