Workers at shift change at the Lakeside Packers plant in Brooks.
Credits: File Photo,
CALGARY — Laid-off employees of the Lakeside Packers plant in Brooks, AB, are desperately hopeful for the restart of operations.
"We hope that will be Friday or Monday at the latest," said Doug O'Halloran, president of the union representing workers at the XL Foods facility that's at the centre of Canada's largest beef recall.
"(The workers) are going to have to make a decision in the next few days whether to get work elsewhere."
XL Foods on the weekend temporarily laid off 2,000 employees, but recalled 800 of them to finish processing thousands of carcasses Tuesday so the Canadian Food Inspection Agency could finish an ongoing review of the plant's operations after suspending its licence Sept. 27.
Those 800 workers were out of work again Wednesday, said O'Halloran.
The CFIA will now review its observations of de-boning and cutting activities, E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall sanitation. Inspectors will analyze results from product testing done by both XL and the agency.
The CFIA will then prepare a report, including its recommendations on the next step for the plant, likely before next week.
Meanwhile, more producers are deciding to ship their cattle to the U.S. for slaughter.
Anne Dunford, an industry market analyst with Gateway Livestock, said weekly data for the week ending Oct. 6 showed 10,800 herds of Canadian cattle were sent south of the border, more than double the average of 5,000 per week in recent months.
It's a spike Dunford attributes to the XL plant closure.
"Is it extra cost? Absolutely. Freight is charged by the mile and also there's costs at the border in regard to USDA requirements and having all the proper paperwork in order," she said.
However, if producers don't send their livestock to the U.S. and can't market it to other Canadian slaughterhouses, the only other option is to keep cattle past their end date, which costs approximately $4 per head per day.
It's not uncommon for a feedlot to have several thousand herds, said Dunford.
"There's only so many days you can do it," she said. "It's adding cost to what they had already budgeted.
"Two weeks ago, I think you would have found more that said, 'Let's wait and see.' ... As time goes on, more are deciding to bite the bullet.”