Organigram Plans To Reduce Workforce To Address Coronavirus Measures

Ray Gracewood observes the chocolates being made in the production line. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

MONCTON – COVID-19 mitigation measures are affecting all sorts of businesses, including cannabis producer Organigram, which has been rapidly expanding since recreational cannabis was legalized in 2017.

The company, which has over 800 employees at its Moncton facility, has to reduce its workforce, which will result in reductions in production and packaging.

Organigram is expecting voluntary and company-imposed layoffs, as well as the reallocation of the remaining staff, due to social distancing.

“In light of health concerns, we immediately developed a workforce reduction plan that would align with reduced availability of production employees to ensure employee safety and social distancing at the facility,” Gracewood said. “We expect to have a formal update likely early next week.”

The company has also increased washing and hand-sanitizing stations, as well as personal protective equipment. It also implemented staggered shifts.

In addition, staff who aren’t required to be on-site are now working from home, and in-person meetings have been limited.

Restrictions on staff travel, as well as for visitor access, have also been implemented, in addition to imposed self-isolation for employees returning from international travels as of March 13.

The company’s Emergency Response Team meets at least once a day to monitor pandemic updates, review safety protocols and develop action plans, Gracewood said.

Despite the coronavirus and the pending layoffs, the company is still very much in expansion mode.

Organigram had just recently received approval from Health Canada for the licensing of the rest of its Phase 5 expansion, according to a company press release.

The licenses cover the addition of a two-storey production facility, dedicated spaces for packaging of flower, pre-rolls, vape pens and powdered beverages, and a new extraction facility, among others. It also allows for new purpose-built harvest and drying rooms, and support areas for quality assurance, maintenance and sanitation.

As it goes about its day-to-day business amidst the coronavirus, the company is also donating 500 liters of ethanol and working with Moncton’s Mapleton Pharmacy to produce hand sanitizers for the healthcare sector.

“It requires a license, so the partnership was crucial to ensuring a quick solution,” said Ray Gracewood, SVP of marketing and communications, told Huddle in an e-mail. “I’m unsure of how much hand sanitizer the ethanol will make, but it was offered free of charge with the intention that the sanitizer will be distributed it to those in need across the healthcare system.”