TORONTO – Struggling meat processor Maple Leaf Foods is getting even leaner just in time for the holidays.
The Toronto-based company said Wednesday that it plans to eliminate more than 400 salaried jobs, mostly before the end of the year, as it works to reduce costs and cut back areas where it says there are too many managers.
Maple Leaf’s move will affect about three per cent of the company’s employees across Canada, including middle management and office jobs, though the layoffs will be concentrated in Ontario, said spokesman David Bauer.
No unionized employees or hourly jobs will be affected, he added.
It’s just the latest round of cuts for a company that has spent much of the past seven years slashing its workforce, merging facilities and selling off other divisions in a $1-billion attempt to return to profitability.
Many of those efforts were centred on the opening of a new super-facility in Hamilton that spans 402,000 square feet, where some of the latest layoffs will take place.
Other cuts will be made at its Mississauga, Ont., head office and spread across the country, Bauer said.
“With the challenges of our network transformation largely behind us, now is the right time to look at our organization to streamline so we can reinvest in growth,” he said.
Talk of tangible growth has been almost unheard of at Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MFI) over the past three years as it sunk into regular quarterly losses and started reassessing priorities.
In October, the company reported profits for only the second time in 11 quarters, with net earnings of $18.7 million on slightly lower overall sales.
But analysts were focused at the time on Maple Leaf Foods delaying its earnings growth targets as a percentage of revenue until 2016, from original plans to reach that goal by this year, which suggested a solid recovery was further away than hoped.
Maple Leaf has been chipping away at its workforce for several years, partly through massive job reductions, which included a net loss of 1,550 positions in 2011, as well as much smaller cuts incorporated into its consolidation moves.
For example, last year the company shuttered an old wiener production facility in Hamilton and merged the operations into the super facility, cutting about 26 jobs in the process.
Overall, the company has shrunk the number of its national meat plants by nearly half to 13 and consolidated into two distribution centres, where previously it had 19.
It also closed two bakeries in the Toronto area and sold its 90 per cent stake in Canada Bread to Mexican company Grupo Bimbo last year.
Maple Leaf employs roughly 12,000 people across Canada.
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