CALGARY -- Cargill has been granted an extension by Occupational Health and Safety following a review of the plant near High River that found workers were not consulted during last month’s safety investigation, which is required by law.

OHS has granted the company until May 18th to be in compliance, listing a set of demands that include:

  • Report to OHS the time, place, and nature of any worker exposure to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 infections
  • Carry out an investigation into the circumstances surrounding any worker exposure to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 infections
  • Prepare a report outlining the circumstances of the incident and the corrective action
  • Provide a copy of the report to OHS

More than 950 workers were infected with the virus, which is nearly half the workforce.

There are currently 58 active cases among workers, 893 have recovered.

One employee has died and a second death was linked to the plant.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 represents the nearly 2,000 workers.

“It is our view that Cargill has not taken workplace health and safety seriously, and while we have reason to be optimistic given new processes at the plant, we are concerned about the future and the need for a culture shift at the plant not only towards health and safety but also towards listening to the concerns of our members,” said UFCW 401 spokesperson Michael Hughes.

The OHS review found that workers being exposed to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 represented a potentially serious incident.

The union applied for a stop work order last month, but was unsuccessful.

Cargill responded to the review with a statement.

“Cargill was not found in 'non-compliance' of the OHS Act and a new order was not issued against Cargill,” the statement read.

“Cargill fully intends on cooperating with the OHS Officer's direction and will consider further recommendations from the committee, if any."

A spokesperson for the labour ministry says OHS has full independent authority to investigate and enforce in accordance with Alberta’s laws.

“We cannot comment further given that OHS is currently conducting its ongoing investigation,” said Adrienne South, press secretary for the minister of labour.

The union filed a unfair labour practice complaint with the province's labour relations board. A hearing is scheduled with the board, Cargill and union later this week.