Canadian abattoirs struggle to fill jobs

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

The Canadaian Meat Council wants migrants to fill vacant meat factory jobs
The Canadaian Meat Council wants migrants to fill vacant meat factory jobs

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The Canadian Meat Council (CMC) has said a shortage of 1,000 meat cutters is holding the industry back from operating at full capacity and increasing its exports. 

Last week the CMC was in Ottawa to lobby Justin Trudeau’s government to implement changes to make it easier for low-skilled workers from abroad to find employment in abattoirs and meat processing plants.

But following a meeting with the industry body on Thursday 7 January, Canada’s minister of employment, workforce development and labour MaryAnn Mihychuk said that hiring temporary foreign workers was not the long-term solution for the industry’s woes.

Canada’s modus operandi

Skills training and improvements in recruitment and staff retention was the modus operandi for the sector, which was struggling to cope with a lack of staff, Mihychuk said.

In a statement published on 7 January, the minister added: “In the present circumstance, where we are seeing such economic hard times across the Prairies, it would be a very unusual circumstance where we had to resort to temporary foreign workers to fill a position.

Our focus is to provide more funding for Canadians to get the skills, to help companies recruit Canadians, landed immigrants and refugees that are coming into our country so that they can fill those posts.​”

Jobs to refugees

Canada’s meat processing industry is suffering from a chronic lack of staff, due to restrictions imposed on the country’s foreign worker program – a short-term measure used to help Canadian employers hire foreign nationals to fill temporary labour shortages.

And Mihychuk’s comments on the issue come after Maple Leaf Foods – one of Canada’s leading food meat processors – said it would happily employ refugees from Syria and other conflict zones in its plants around the country.

Maple Leaf Foods senior vice-president government and industry relations Rory McAlpine told Canadian Press he “would be very pleased and honoured to be part of the solution in terms of helping find employment for the Syrian refugees; we have jobs available​”.

McAlpine's offer to employ refugees from conflict zones comes after Maple Leaf Foods cut 400 jobs​ in November.

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