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XL Beef to close permanently

More than 200 employees officially laid off, union negotiating closure agreement

MOOSE JAW - - Picket lines will stay up while negotiations are worked out for a closure agreement, union officials said after the announcement XL Beef will permanently close its doors.

Nearly 200 employees are now permanently laid off. About 140 employees have been picketing since they were locked out in September 2009. XL Foods Inc. announced Friday it has served notice to employees that the plant will be shut down permanently within 90 days.
In a statement, Brian Nilsson, co-CEO of XL, said the closure is for business and economic reasons. "The market conditions and the fact that we cannot get a viable collective bargaining agreement to allow us to operate the facility have caused us to make this decision," he said.
Production will continue at XL's Alberta and U.S. plants. The statement states XL will continue to "aggressively procure cows, bulls and fed cattle in Saskatchewan and Manitoba as it has in the past."

United Food and Commercial Workers Union officials held a meeting with employees at the Moose Jaw & District Labour Council offices at lunchtime Friday. Norm Neault, President of the Local 1400 of the UFCW, said the notice received from XL was "somewhat vague."
"We are having our legal team look at the notice and make a determination of where we are," he said.
"We would like to negotiate a closure agreement and apply provisions in the collective agreement which allow for severance due to closure."

Neault said the union would also be negotiating for XL to provide job retraining, job search skills and possibly action centres for job placement. He said other issues the union is focussing on include whether the employees' benefits will be reinstated after the lockout.
"EI (Employment Insurance) was suspended back in September.
"There is also the issue of picket pay and that will continue during the closing period unless there is an agreement with the employer for severance.
"The notice we were given is one where the employer believes it was not a technological change under the (Trade Union) act which would require them to provide notice and meet to discuss closure. We disagree."
Neault said it is unusual not to be given an exact date for closure and he said there has been no formal invitation to meet.
"I certainly hope XL takes the high road and treats these individuals in a respectful way and provides them with assistance through this transition."
Neault said employees were surprised and disappointed by the announcement.
"There were a lot of indications throughout the last year that pointed to this operation continuing.
"The fact they were locked out for a year and they did not close it, they brought in CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) in April to preserve their accreditation and did not give any indication there was going to be a complete closure.
"It's a big hit to this community," he said.
Neault said the union tried to find a viable collective agreement with XL.
"We were certainly ready to go back to work at any time and continue the collective bargaining process and they were not interested in that," he said.


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