ShapeShapeauthorShapechevroncrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShaperssShape

Nadeau Poultry Launches Awareness Campaign

by 5m Editor
1 September 2011, at 9:20am

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA - Nadeau Poultry employees have started a campaign calling for immediate action from the provincial government to help keep open the poultry processing plant in St François-de-Madawaska.

The small northern New Brunswick community of St François-de-Madawaska is awash with lawns signs, billboards, posters and bumper stickers demanding immediate action by the New Brunswick government to stop New Brunswick-grown chickens and jobs from going to Quebec. Since 2009, almost 80 per cent of New Brunswick-grown chickens have been trucked past Nadeau Poultry's doors, the province's only chicken processor, to Olymel in Quebec for processing. Stark white signs feature a single chicken, a succinct demand that government act now to save Nadeau Poultry jobs and a web site address (NBchickencrisis.com) with more information about the issue.

Employees, said Nadeau Poultry manager, Yves Landry, feel they are pawns and victims in a crisis that only the New Brunswick government has the power to fix.

He said: "Government caused it. Government must fix it. This campaign is about getting our voices and our message heard. The people of St François are aware that a remedy is readily available and the New Brunswick government must implement it now before more jobs are lost and the instability in the chicken industry becomes entrenched."

Mr Landry said the campaign's simple message reflects employees' anger and frustration with government's refusal to address the problem it created.

He explained: "If the government had not failed in its regulatory role, the chickens would have remained in the province for processing as was intended in a well-managed supply management system."

Between the mid-1990s and 2003, Groupe Westco acquired control of more than 50 per cent of New Brunswick-grown chickens in defiance of regulations that existed which limited control of the provincial chicken supply by any one group to 10 per cent, said Mr Landry. "None of the government bodies responsible for enforcing the regulations stepped in. Instead, the government sat back and let it happen with no thought to the negative impact on 50-year old Nadeau Poultry, its employees, or the entire chicken industry. It's a situation that wouldn't have happened in any other province."

When Groupe Westco then began to divert more than 270,000 chickens from Nadeau Poultry to its partner Olymel in Quebec for processing, Nadeau Poultry was forced to lay-off about 50 per cent of its workforce. Mr Landry said the job losses have been devastating not just at the plant but across the region as a result of the trickle-down effect in the local communities. Businesses are closing because people have less disposable income, he said. The Mayor of St François shared the community's fears with Minister Michael Olscamp and officials in the Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture in July.

If Westco follows through with a plan to build a second plant in New Brunswick, the chicken industry in eastern Canada and as far west as Ontario, will become destabilised.

"The amount of chickens that can be grown in New Brunswick is restricted, so we can't simply grow more chickens. With a second plant, there will be insufficient supply of New Brunswick-grown chickens and the two plants will be forced to seek birds from other provinces," Mr Landry says.

He says consumers will feel the pinch if the New Brunswick government, despite its obligation to properly administer provincial supply management, continues in its refusal to rectify the situation. Processors will aggressively fight for supply outside of their own borders offering premium payments to entice growers. This situation will set off price wars and ultimately the consumer will pay more at the counter.

Mr Landry summed up the potential impact on the St François community if the government did not take immediate action: "Building a second plant by trying to close another business is not economic development, it's job transfer at best and creates downstream chaos in the industry. We need a solution now that returns a fair share of New Brunswick chickens to our existing plant if we are to avoid significant extended job losses in our region."

Without a predictable supply of chicken, Nadeau Poultry could close. "Without a solution implemented, our employees know that with each passing day, they are getting ever closer to the unemployment line," Mr Landry said.