Union speaks out about plant conditions
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:20AM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:39PM MDT
The union representing the workers at the XL Foods plant in Brooks says there are serious problems inside the facility that need to be addressed.
Doug O’Halloran, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, spoke to the media on Tuesday and called for Premier Redford to call a public inquiry.
“First of all we'd like to call for a public inquiry into this disaster that has taken place here in Brooks. We don't think that the government can do the inquiry, we think they are part of the problem,” said O'Halloran.
He went on to say that the union's complaints are not with the CFIA inspectors but he says that there are not enough of them and they do not appear to have they authority they need to shut down the line if necessary.
"We're not complaining about the inspectors. As a matter of fact the inspectors do a good job with the tools that they have to do it, however there are not enough inspectors," said O' Halloran. "So it's important that we recognize where the culprits are, it's the federal government who's cut back on funding and what have you and continues to cut back on funding."
The union would also like to see "whistle blower" language added to contracts to protect those who come forward with complaints.
NDP Leader, Brian Mason was also at the press conference and said the conservatives at the provincial and federal level have failed Albertans.
"There's a philosophy that is shared, I think, between the PC provincial government here in Alberta and the conservative federal governement and that is that less regulation is better and that you can rely on some regulation by corporations as a way of saving costs and ensuring that the appropriate outcomes are achieved. I think this is a very good example of how that philosophy has failed Albertans." said Mason.
He says the current system has failed consumers and those who work in the industry.
"This has damaged the brand of Alberta Beef in a way that I think is very very serious," said Mason. "I believe it is the provincial government's responsibility to stand up for the industry and that means to make sure that the industry is properly regulated so that this kind of thing doesn't happen that jeopardizes the safety of the public but also the capacity to export our beef into the American market and to other markets."
O’Halloran accused the company of not listening to the workers’ concerns about food safety at the plant and refusing to meet with the union to discuss longstanding issues.
“XL cannot self-regulate,” he said at a news conference in Brooks on Wednesday.
He said that each worker handles between 3,000 and 4,000 meat cuts per day and around 300 animal carcasses move down the line each hour, leaving employees with little time to perform safety checks.
“You have a few seconds, maybe two seconds…there just isn’t enough time,” he said.
"We are calling on (the plant) to take it seriously. You can replace all the aluminum, all the stainless steel you want at the plant, but if you don't give your workers the tools to perform the job properly, we're not going to solve this problem."
Meanwhile, food safety officials are reviewing a report on a pre-inspection of the XL Foods plant, which took place Tuesday.
CFIA spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier says the pre-inspection is just one step in a multi-step process of determining if the plant is safe to resume operating.
She says the CFIA didn't receive the report until late Tuesday night and the agency will carefully review it before commenting.
The union says they have had no communication with the management of XL Foods and that they do not know when the plant will reopen.
More than 1,800 beef products have been recalled and 11 people in four provinces have been sickened with the same strain of E. coli found at the facility.