Nadeau Poultry Farms cuts 60 jobs

Nadeau Poultry Farms Ltd. announced Monday that it will lay off 60 employees or 26 per cent of its staff, in the coming weeks due to a dwindling supply of chicken.

Yves Landry, manager of the poultry company, based in St-François-de-Madawaska, said the company tried to hold off the latest round of layoffs but could no longer afford to employ all 230 current staff members.

"We lost another 22,000 birds per week in August," Landry said in a statement. "We decided at that point that we would cut hours across the board instead of laying people off. That is simply no longer viable. We were trying to limit the impact, but unfortunately we no longer have a choice."

Carol Gardin, national corporate communications officer for Ontario-based Maple Lodge Farms, Nadeau's parent company, acknowledged that the timing of the announcement was not ideal, but said the company wanted to its give employees a heads up before they started spending during the holiday season.

"It's terrible. We really, really struggled with it. In the end, we were worried that this time of year people go out and they quite often over-extend themselves financially and the last thing we wanted to do is place them in a position where they were surprised in January when they didn't have a job," she said.

The poultry company is the only chicken processor in the province and has been in conflict with Groupe Westco Inc., a major New Brunswick chicken producer, for years.

In 2009, one year after Westco partnered with Quebec-based Olymel L.P. to form Sunnymel and started to ship New Brunswick chickens to Olymel's slaughterhouse in Quebec, Nadeau cut 165 jobs.

Gardin said Nadeau has been getting by with an alternate supply of chickens from Nova Scotia, but in June, once a new facility opens in the province and Nadeau loses the extra supply, the company will likely go through another round of layoffs.

Another option for an alternative supply could come from Quebec but Gardin said that an interprovincial trade battle could hamper those efforts.

At the beginning of December, Nadeau employees protested at the Legislature in hopes that the government would step in to help protect their jobs.

At that time, Agriculture Minister Mike Olscamp told the Telegraph-Journal that he is open to mediation to help solve the dispute between Nadeau and Sunnymel, which is scheduled to open a new slaughterhouse in Clair in about 11 months.

Source: NB Business Journal