At least 64 workers have received a positive diagnosis of the disease, which represents 13 % of the workforce of the company of Chambly.
May 10, 2020 19: 23
Updated at 23h29
COVID-19: 64 hiv-infected workers at the plant Foods Cargill Chambly
The canadian Press
An outbreak of the COVID-19 at the meat processing plant Foods Cargill Chambly will result in the temporary closure of this plant in the Montérégie region.
At least 64 workers have received a positive diagnosis of the disease, which represents 13 % of the local workforce, confirms the employer in an e-mail sent to The canadian Press , and containing a statement dated 4 may.
“Since the health and safety of employees of Cargill continue to be our priority, we have decided to close our factory for the production of proteins in Chambly, Quebec. Cargill is working in close partnership with the local health authorities and the union to test our employees as quickly as possible,” says the statement of the employer.
It is the Workers ‘ union, united food and commercial (UFCW), which represents the 500 unionized employees of the plant in Chambly.
In an interview with The canadian Press on Sunday, Roxane Larouche, a spokesperson for the office québécois of the UFCW, said that 171 workers had been removed from their place of work last week by the nurse of the plant, as a preventive measure. Of this number, 30 people have received a diagnosis negative for the disease until now.
Three employees were also recovered, according to Cargill who anticipates that other people will be ready to resume work soon.
“What has been determined with the public health, in collaboration with Cargill, is that as of Wednesday the plant will be closed in order to conduct the tests and the reopening is scheduled at a time where we will have a sufficient number of workers, in order to restart this plant here,” says the spokesperson for the UFCW.
All employees of the plant should undergo a test to check if they have contracted the new coronavirus once production has ceased, which may take a few days. The tests should be done on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to Ms. Larouche.
The company has also confirmed that its employees will be paid during this forced break.
“We give up to 80 hours of paid leave to people who need to be absent from work to deal with the COVID-19. During the shutdown of the factory, employees will be paid for up to 36 hours – and this is in addition to the usual benefits, because we want to demonstrate our gratitude to our employees.”
Unsurprisingly, this decision has been welcomed to the union, which will help avoid nasty surprises in the opinion of Ms. Larouche.
“The idea behind it is that we do not want that workers have to choose between their financial health and their physical health. It doesn’t a worker does not reveal his symptoms or to accept that he has been in contact with someone declared positive because he is afraid of losing his salary.”
Outbreak despite several health measures
A number of measures had yet been put forward in the hope of avoiding such a scenario, such as the wearing of glasses, a visor and masks by employees on the production line as well as the installation of plexiglas, where it was possible. The hours of arrival and departure of employees had also been shifted between different work shifts, the groups were separated at meals in order to comply with the measures of distance-physical and carpooling to the plant was limited to two people, according to Ms. Larouche.
Then, how to explain this important contamination between Foods employees Cargill Chambly? Roxane Larouche believes that this can be explained by the presence of members of same families in the use of this plant or of workers who live in the same place.
For its part, the cabinet of the federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-food canada, Marie-Claude Bibeau, said “to fully recognize the health concerns of the workers in certain plants meat processing”.
“As for all the essential workers, appropriate measures must be put in place, if workers can continue to provide vital services to Canadians in these critical times,” wrote a spokesperson for the firm at The canadian Press in an e-mail sent in the early evening, Sunday.
This spokesperson also stresses that the local and provincial health authorities worked in close concert with the factories to ensure the safety of workers and supply chains.
“CFIA inspectors visit these factories to check that the regulations on food safety is properly applied and we have invested 20 million dollars to ensure they have the resources necessary to do their job in these difficult times”, one can read in the statement.
This is the second time that a factory of Cargill must close in Canada, after that of High River in Alberta, on the 20th of April, due to the pandemic of COVID-19.
This important slaughterhouse in southern Alberta has re-opened its doors two weeks later, but several employees were opposed to the resumption of activities last week. A protest organized by their union lifted the veil on their fears of health and safety at work.
There has been over 900 positive diagnosis and death due to novel coronavirus among the 2000 workers of the slaughterhouse in Western canada.