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Meat processing company Olymel to cut 340 jobs at plant in St-Hyacinthe, Que.

ST-HYACINTHE, Que. – Meat processing company Olymel announced Friday it will cut 340 jobs at its plant in St-Hyacinthe, Que.

The decision stems from a plan by the Canadian meat packing giant to cease pork deboning operations at the facility located in southwestern Quebec.

“At some point, we must make difficult decisions and this is one of them,” said Richard Vigneault, an Olymel spokesman.

The company felt it made more sense to have activities like ham deboning take place at plants where slaughtering and butchering are already done and are located closer to facilities that use those products, Vigneault explained.

Affected employees are being given advance notice as deboning activities are scheduled to continue at the plant until September 2017.

The company says it will try to relocate some workers to other plants located within 70 kilometres of St-Hyacinthe, allowing them to retain their seniority and benefits in the process.

The St-Hyacinthe facility will remain open, though, with 70 positions spared as lard production rendering and frozen product storage will be maintained on site.

Olymel is also looking at other options for the plant, including new operations to replace deboning.

Vigneault said Friday’s decision is specific to the one unit and no other layoffs are expected in the near future.

The union representing the affected workers did not return calls on Friday.

The company employs nearly 11,000 people, including more than 8,000 in Quebec, and also has facilities in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

Olymel exports nearly a third of its total annual sales of $3 billion, mainly to the United States, Japan and Australia, as well as over 65 other countries.