A Cargill protein plant in Chambly, Quebec, Canada, will temporarily close after 64 of its employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The number of positive cases is about 13% of the plant’s workforce, according to reports. The union representing workers at the plant, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) told CBC/Radio Canada that 171 of the plant’s employees are in self-quarantine because of illness or exposure to someone who has symptoms.
Operations are expected to be idled beginning May 13 so employees can be tested. A Cargill spokesperson told CBC that testing would be voluntary and that the plant will reopen “as soon as practically possible.” Employees will be paid for up to 36 hours per week while the plant is closed.
The Chambly plant is a further processing/case-ready meat packaging facility for retail supermarket shelves, according to Cargill's website.
Additional safety measures
In a statement posted on its website on May 7, Cargill said it was “continuously learning about new ways to protect employees” and that, “in the last month, in partnership with health and regulatory officials, we increased measures designed to provide greater safety and protection for our workers in our North American protein facilities.”
The company said it is working with multiple organizations to ensure the safety of its employees.
“In partnership with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and other national and local health officials, we are proactively putting into place the latest available safety protocols appropriate for the contexts in which we operate. We have been clear; we can meet safety standards and Cargill’s high food quality standards.”
The company lists several additional safety measures it has put in place since the pandemic to protect its workers, and a UFCW spokesperson said “protective measures such as the installation of plexiglass, staggered lunch breaks and the use of masks and visors were in place at the plant,” according to CBC.
In April, Cargill idled its beef processing plant in High River, Alberta, Canada, after hundreds of workers there tested positive for COVID-19.
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