No layoffs planned, manager says

Farming Partner in Country Ribbon cuts hundreds of jobs at Nova Scotia poultry processing operation

Terry Roberts editor@cbncompass.ca
Published on January 24, 2009
A lone employee stands outside the St. John's Country Ribbon Inc. chicken processing facility in Pleasantville Friday afternoon. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

There are no plans to slash jobs at Country Ribbon, the province's only fully integrated chicken producer and processor, says chief executive officer Ian Pittman.

"We will continue focusing on our cost structure, eliminating waste wherever we can and working with all our employees to continue to provide good quality products and service to our customer," Pittman said Friday.

There are no plans to slash jobs at Country Ribbon, the province's only fully integrated chicken producer and processor, says chief executive officer Ian Pittman.

"We will continue focusing on our cost structure, eliminating waste wherever we can and working with all our employees to continue to provide good quality products and service to our customer," Pittman said Friday.

Questions about the health of the province's poultry processing sector were raised this week after Nova Scotia-based ACA Co-operative Ltd., a major shareholder in Country Ribbon, announced it was closing a money-losing processing plant in Kentville and scaling back operations in New Minas. In total, the company is laying off 302 employees.

ACA and New Brunswick-based Co-op Atlantic own Country Ribbon. The companies took over from Integrated Poultry Ltd. (IPL), a consortium of chicken producers, in the late 1990s after IPL went bankrupt.

Country Ribbon employs roughly 325 people at its broiler farm near Cochrane Pond, a feed mill on Topsail Road and a processing plant in Pleasantville. The business also sustains roughly 150 spinoff jobs among its suppliers.

Most of the workers are represented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Private and Public Employees (NAPE). Chris Henley, an employee relations officer, said he's not overly concerned "because we've been given assurances that it's not going to happen."

However, Henley said it's a "volatile operation" because of challenges with operating costs, especially feed and energy costs, and shifts in the market.

"It really puts them into a pretty precarious situation from time to time. They had some significant challenges to keep their heads above water. But they're a very viable organization when you consider the fact they've gone from an organization that had, in the IPL days, a significant debt load and were in the red on a consistent basis, to being a company that is making money. It's a major turnaround from where they were five or 10 years ago," Henley said.

Pittman acknowledged the company has faced some challenges in the past year, and has been forced to pass along some of those higher costs to the consumer. But he said the company is confident in its people, products and business model.

"We'll manage through the economic challenges we face," he said.

troberts@thetelegram.com