Cargill’s High River plant – about 60 kilometers south of Calgary – has approximately 2,000 workers, and the union has said it may be severely affected by the disease, considering provincial projections of the spread of the virus .
Premier Jason Kenney said last week that provincial modeling shows that about one in six Albertans can contract the new coronavirus. The union noted that one in six of the 2,000 factory workers equals 333 people.
The union says there are currently 38 confirmed cases in the factory: five employees, four contractors and 29 workers.
Thomas Hesse, president of Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, wrote to plant management on Sunday.
“Our union is very embarrassed and deeply disturbed by your workplace in Alberta,” said Hesse in the letter, obtained by CBC News.
“There is no reason to believe that hundreds of people in your workplace will not soon be infected with the virus. “
The nature of the work, said Hesse, is the opposite of social distancing. People work side by side in many cases.
He called for the plant to be closed while maintaining full compensation for employees and a meeting with stakeholders.
“Unfortunately, the employer is simply not doing enough to protect its employees in this environment,” said Hesse. “You have to do more. “
Business reducing change, increasing wages
Carnes, based in Minnesota, said it was temporarily cutting shifts starting Monday, and that some pay and bonus increases are now in place.
“We have also implemented additional security measures such as improved temperature testing, cleaning and disinfection, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible and offering staggered breaks and flexibility shift, “Jon Nash said in an email to CBC News.
“Our facility will once again be operational at full capacity as soon as it can do so safely.”
Alberta health officials declined an interview, but health officials are monitoring the situation and are at the plant in a statement.
“Inspectors have provided the company with information on disinfection and personnel protocols necessary to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic,” spokesperson Bruce Conway told CBC News in an emailed statement. .
“There is no problem with food safety on the site. COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. These strengthened measures will help to guarantee the safety of personnel and products. “
Conway refused to provide specific case numbers to Cargill when asked.
The health agency has offered details in other cases, such as the McKenzie Towne retirement home complex.
Closing more than 2 weeks is problematic, says prof
A Dalhousie University professor specializing in food safety and security says that the nature of livestock processing comes together in a breathing room.
“A closure at Cargill would be disruptive but not disastrous,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the food analysis laboratory.
“If it exceeds two weeks, it could be quite problematic for the country.”
A total of 44 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, the province reported this weekend.
There were 1,651 confirmed cases, of which 237 involved community transmission. Of the 44 who were hospitalized, 14 were in intensive care. But the number of people who recovered, 823 this weekend, was increasing.
More than 60% of the cases are in the Calgary area. In Foothills County, where High River falls, the region has so far recorded 67 cases, according to provincial data.