On the Picket Line

Poultry, pork workers on strike in Quebec reject bosses’ pay offer

By Katy LeRougetel
June 28, 2021

SAINT-ANSELME, Quebec — “Groceries have gone up 30% but not my wages, we just want to survive,” Noel Rouillard, on strike at the Exceldor poultry packinghouse here, told the Militant  June 6.

Over 500 United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1991-P members walked out May 23, rejecting the bosses’ offer of a CA$1,500 Canadian dollars to CA$3,000 signing bonus and a raise from CA$20.71 an hour to CA$22.51.

“I don’t have that much time left to work,” Suzanne Pouliot said, “but we’re thinking of the younger ones. And that signing bonus is taxable.”

Over 1,000 pork slaughterhouse workers have been on strike 30 miles away in Vallee-Jonction against Quebec meatpacking giant Olymel since April 28. Both strikes focus on demands to make up for past concessions squeezed from the workers.

“Olymel was a precedent in 2007,” explained Rouillard, when bosses there cut wages by 38%. At Exceldor, “I was getting $17.40 an hour. I went down to $16. They abolished the pension plan and we lost two paid holidays. Now we’re looking to catch up on wages, we’re aiming for $25.”

Nine busloads of Olymel strikers came to reinforce the Exceldor picket line June 2. “We’re planning on going to their picket line soon, too,” said striker Donald Chabot. “We had a barbecue last Saturday with music and dancing, morale is good.” 

Talks between the union and Olymel continue at a snail’s pace. At Exceldor, talks are stalled.

At both plants strikers told the Militant  some of the workers are from Guatemala, Mexico and Mauritius, working on two-year exclusive contracts. While some strikers have found other work to get by, those restricted to one employer aren’t able to do so.

The bosses hope that will put pressure on these workers to push to end the strike. However, striker Francis Goulet said, “We work together, you make a friend, you gain trust. He translates for others. They tried divide and rule, but it didn’t work.”

I joined fellow Communist League member Joe Young in bringing solidarity cards and messages from our co-workers — from Walmart and  Cargill — to Olymel strikers, signed in several languages, including Polish and Filipino.

Strikers welcome all to their picket lines. Send messages and contributions of support to Syndicat des Travailleurs d’Olymel, Vallee-Jonction, 243 Rue Principale, Vallee-Jonction, QC G0S 3J0 and UFCW 1991-P, 3750 boul. Cremazie Est, Bureau 591, Montreal QC H2A 1B6.