Alberta minister of agriculture Verlyn Olson speaks to the media n Edmonton, Alberta after XL foods announced massive layoffs on Saturday, October 13, 2012.
Credits: AMBER BRACKEN/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- The layoff of more than 2,000 employees at the XL Foods plant in Brooks is a "disappointing setback" to restarting Alberta's beef processing, the provincial government says.
"We're very concerned about it and disappointed that it's happened, but we're monitoring it closely," said Verlyn Olson, minister of agriculture and rural development.
Speaking with reporters at the legislature Saturday evening, Olson said the provincial government expects XL Foods and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to work together to reopen the plant as soon as possible.
"We're expecting XL to do whatever they have to do to satisfy CFIA and get the plant open. Other than us being a very aggressive observer, there's nothing directly we can do," Olson explained.
More than 2,000 workers were laid off from the company's Brooks plant Saturday, which was shut down in late September after an E. coli contamination lead to international recall in the plant's meat products.
"Obviously this is a blow to the workers at the XL plant in Brooks," Olson said. "It's an extremely important and negative development for Brooks in the short term."
About one in six of the city's population is affiliated with the plant, Olson said, and a majority of the plant's employees are immigrant workers.
Olson said the Human Services ministry will be at the plant Monday morning to help staff fill out employment insurance paperwork to help them financially "in the short term."
"The information from XL is that it is a temporary layoff until they are sure they are able to be up and running and getting their product out to people who want to buy it," Olson said.
The government has lent the CFIA some labs for testing meat processed at the plant this week, Olson said, and the results are due to be delivered to officials as early as Monday morning.
The timing of the layoffs and the impending test results could be an indication that the tests were not positive for the plant, NDP Leader Brian Mason said.
"The timing of this announcement is very concerning, and it suggests that in fact there may be bigger problems at the plant than was previously indicated," Mason speculated.
Mason said the layoffs will not bode well for XL Foods as he believes many of the plant's workforce will look for employment elsewhere.
The best defence for our beef industry is to stand up and demand better inspection regulations from the CFIA, Mason said.