A worker has died and more than two dozen people are sick amid a COVID-19 outbreak at the Maple Lodge Farms poultry processing plant in Brampton, Ontario, one of the largest chicken slaughterhouses in Canada. Canada.
The company and its union have confirmed that an employee died this week after being infected with the virus.
“On behalf of the members and staff of the Union, I offer my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased member,” said Shawn Haggerty, President of UFCW Local 175, in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time, as well as the other members of the factory who are also responsible for their own diagnoses of COVID-19.”
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The company and the union also confirmed that 25 factory workers have COVID-19.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the company expressed “deep sadness” over “devastating news” that one of its employees with COVID-19 had died. He also said that he was in contact with the family to offer condolences and that he was “dedicated to providing support and comfort” necessary to help his employees cope with the tragedy.
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Maple Lodge also said in its statement that, like other companies, it continues to be “severely tested by the evolving COVID-19 crisis. He added that he contacted local public health officials immediately after the identification of each case of COVID-19.
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The Maple Lodge plant is the last meat packaging plant in North America to be affected by an outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Global News first reported that the chicken processor had waited almost three weeks before publicly disclosing the first positive case.
A letter to employees dated April 16 and obtained by Global News said that the company learned on April 15 that an employee had tested positive for the virus.
“The employee’s last day of work was April 6,” said the letter. “According to COVID-19 protocols from Maple Lodge Farm, they are out of the workplace and have become isolated since they learned on that date that their partner had tested positive for the virus. “
“The employee at the time had no symptoms. “
The company publicly acknowledged the “first positive cases” in an earlier statement released on May 4. It was 20 days after I learned of the first case.
The poultry processor said it had taken steps to deal with the outbreak, including a mandatory requirement for employees to wear masks, shift shifts to improve physical distance and “initiatives frequent deep cleaning ”.
“Peel Public Health is providing instructions to the MLF on the steps to take, which we have followed very closely, in addition to implementing the additional precautionary measures we consider necessary,” the statement said.
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Concerned family members of workers at the Brampton plant say they are upset, the company waited nearly three weeks before publicly disclosing the positive cases. Global News has agreed not to identify family members for fear of reprisals in the workplace.
The spouse of an employee who is currently isolated with a severe cough after being tested for COVID-19 said he was upset that the company was not taking enough steps to protect the workers.
“The way they do it is wrong,” said the spouse. “Why don’t they close? Thoroughly cleanse, isolate everyone for two weeks, and then come back. “
“I don’t think Maple Lodge employees are their number one priority,” they told Global News. “They are looking for profit on people’s health. “
When asked why she hadn’t informed the public earlier, Carol Gardin, director of corporate affairs for Maple Lodge, told Global News in an email that the company was committed to communicating first and foremost with its employees and public health officials.
“Right now, we are communicating sensitive information to our employees, which remains our number one priority,” wrote Gardin.
At the same time, the union said it is in regular contact with the company, which has improved safety protocols, including increased protective gear, social distancing for workers and better cleaning.
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