By Kristy Nudds
September 15, 2011 – Sunnymel, the partnership formed by Groupe Westco and Olymel, has made an offer to lease the Nadeau Poultry (Maple Lodge) slaughterhouse in St-François-de-Madawaska and operate it from the time it closes in June 2012 until the new Sunnymel slaughterhouse is opened in nearby Clair in November 2012.
The company says this action will preserve as many jobs as possible in the interim before it’s $40 million plant in Clair gets up and running. This proposal follows the announcement by Nadeau of its intention to cease operations in St-François-de-Madawaska and concentrate them at its new plant in Nova Scotia.
The two companies have been in a commercial dispute over the processing of chickens in New Brunswick for the past two years.
Groupe Westco President and CEO Thomas Soucy said in a release that “our proposal to lease the Nadeau slaughterhouse until construction of our plant is completed will allow our industry to continue operating and preserve jobs.”
On several occasions since the summer of 2009, Groupe Westco said in the release that it has tried to reach an agreement with Nadeau to find a temporary solution until its new slaughterhouse was built, but the Ontario-based company refused all proposals that would have enabled it to continue to process Westco chickens. These attempts included the purchase of the slaughterhouse, a possible partnership agreement for joint operation, a draft agreement for slaughtering at fair market value during construction of the new slaughterhouse, or payment of a premium similar to what Nadeau offers elsewhere. All these offers were rejected by Nadeau.
“Despite Nadeau’s repeated refusals to come to an agreement with us, we are taking one more step today to protect the workers. It is time to put an end to the hostility, and take action and promote the growth of our local economy by
adopting measures to preserve jobs. This is what Westco has sought to do from very beginning,” Mr. Soucy added.
In recent months, Nadeau has made unsuccessful attempts to block Groupe Westco from building its new slaughterhouse. A judgment by the federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Competition Tribunal in Groupe Westco’s favour , and Nadeau’s complaint before the Chicken Farmers of New Brunswick (CFNB) was also rejected. This decision has also been confirmed by the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission and the New Brunswick Court of Appeal. In addition, an earlier order issued by the Minister of Agriculture of the Graham Liberal government which designated the Nadeau facility as the only chicken product processing plant in New Brunswick has been invalidated by the courts.