Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401
Credits: REUTERS/Todd Korol
CALGARY -- Laid off workers at the shuttered meat packing plant in Brooks, Alta., are hopeful they’ll be back at work in a week.
The union representing the 2,000 XL Foods staffers received an e-mail from XL officials Monday morning indicating employees would be back to work Oct. 29, union president Doug O’Halloran said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which recently finished an inspection of the plant after suspending XL’s licence Sept. 27, has not confirmed if and when the plant will reopen, but workers are still hopeful they’ll have their jobs back in the coming days.
“It’ll be a great relief for the workers -- the pressure they’ve been under is unbelievable,” O’Halloran said.
He said XL’s e-mail indicated staffers would be brought in Monday and Tuesday to pick up new swipe cards to get into the plant, the management of which has been transferred to JBS USA in a deal that also gives JBS the option to buy the Lakeside Packers site along with other XL facilities.
Workers were also expected to undergo training Wednesday through Friday, O’Halloran said, though it’s not clear what that training is for.
Brooks Mayor Martin Shields said the plant’s closure, after becoming the centre of Canada’s largest-ever beef recall, now totalling up to 2,000 products, has impacted many families and businesses in the city about 160 km southeast of Calgary.
“It’s going to hurt -- there’s going to be a ripple effect,” he said, adding even local car dealerships are feeling the pinch.
But on Monday, Shields said the city was filled with optimism that workers could start collecting pay cheques again next week.
“We have a lot of people who can look forward to going back to work,” he said.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz accused opposition MPs of fear mongering as the Safe Food For Canadians Act was debated.
Discussions on the bill, tabled by the Tories in the Senate last spring, come as Liberal and NDP MPs have been hammering the government on the XL Foods recall, saying the feds should have stepped in sooner to shut down the plant.
Ritz maintains the feds have done everything possible to prioritize Canadians’ safety and consumer confidence during the recall and is now pushing for the House to support the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which is currently at second reading in the Commons.
- with files from Kristy Kirkup