Wednesday, April 06, 2005

update: Marvid Kosher out of business after 6 1/2 month strike


At 8:39 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...


April 7, 2005, 27 Adar II, 5765

Strike drives Marvid Poultry out of business

Staff Reporter

Montreal Jews and kosher butchers needing poultry for Passover are being assured that supply will meet demand after news the city’s largest supplier, Marvid Poultry, has shut down operations as a result of a 61/2-month strike.

Marvid, considered a Jewish community institution, was responsible for virtually all local kosher poultry slaughtering and processing. Its March 31 closure leaves the Montreal Jewish community without its own major kosher poultry slaughterhouse and processor.

Murray Steinberg, an agent for Chai Poultry of Toronto, told The CJN that his company will make up for any drop in local supply.

“I was reassured by [Chai owner] Chuck Weinberg… that the Montreal community will be covered completely for all its Passover needs,” Steinberg told The CJN late last week.

“If it’s not fresh, then it will be frozen,” Steinberg said. “[Weinberg] could not have been clearer about it.”

Despite the reassurances, news that Marvid, with its roots dating back to “The Main” decades ago, was closing stunned kosher butchers and consumers, who had expected the company and its employees to negotiate a new collective agreement.

“This came as a surprise,” said Avi Brook, owner of Cote St. Luc Kosher Butchers. “No one expected this.”

Marvid’s closure ended a contentious and bitter labour dispute over salaries and working conditions that dates back to last fall, just before Rosh Hashanah.

The strike began after Marvid started up a second production line that cut back employee hours. Some 90 workers affiliated with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) were seeking a guaranteed 35-hour work week and a better wage scale.

Despite intense negotiations, sometimes in fits and starts, and several union votes, the two sides remained at odds. The last vote rejecting an offer by Marvid took place shortly before owner Moishe Friedman made the closure announcement.

“Due to ongoing labour problems… Marvid Poultry regrettably has no alternative than to close its production facilities as of March 31, 2005,” Friedman stated in a terse letter to customers dated March 23.

“Marvid Poultry would like to thank all its customers for their loyalty and support during hard times.”

At writing, it remained unclear whether outside kosher chicken producers other than Chai would also be able to supply the local market.

To make up for potential shortfalls during the strike, Montreal’s kosher certification body, the Vaad Ha’ir (Jewish Community Council), loosened its ban on non-Montreal poultry being sold at MK-hechshered establishments. That opened the door for Marvid to import poultry from U.S. suppliers such as Empire Kosher Poultry and to give it a Marvid label once it got here.

But Marvid, which held the required import license, no longer exists, so it’s unclear whether U.S. poultry can still come in.

Chai, for its part, has been supplying grocery chains such as IGA, Provigo and Loblaws as well as Costco and some local kosher butchers. Its products carry the “COR” hechsher, which is acceptable to the Vaad.

Commenting on Marvid’s closure, the Vaad Ha’ir’s executive director, Rabbi Saul Emanuel, said, “It is a very sad thing when a supplier has to close business.” He added that the Vaad would “work with approved suppliers” to ensure Montreal Jews have sufficient poultry.

He stressed, however, that the Vaad’s main concern is kosher certification.

Brook described the closure of Marvid as yet another sign that “Montreal is becoming like a shtetl.”

Although he agreed that Montreal Jews will ultimately get the supply of kosher poultry they need, he anticipated higher retail prices without any local major processor.

“Except for Boisbriand [a haredi enclave], Marvid was the only place for local shchitah,” Brook said.

Brook, who until last week was selling poultry imported by Marvid, anticipated having to use Chai within the next week or two.

Claude Bégin, who negotiated on behalf of the CSN during the strike, lamented the fact the two sides could not negotiate a new collective agreement after the old one expired at the end of 2003.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “It’s a business decision, but a lot of effort was made towards satisfying everyone. But it couldn’t be done.”

Bégin attributed the failure to reach a deal to a “climate of distrust” that existed between the parties.

Ironically, the strike took place not long after Marvid had spent several million dollars upgrading its east-end plant.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who has long been critical of the Vaad for not allowing outside kosher meat to be sold at MK-supervised establishments, said he was not concerned that Montreal Jews would lose their supply of kosher poultry as a result of Marvid’s closure.

“If Chai can pick up the production, who cares?” he said. “I’m more concerned about the welfare of consumers.

“If there’s a demand, there will be a supply. The marketplace will always win. There’s enough dead chickens, don’t worry.”

Friedman did not return numerous calls for comment.


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