'Precautions are not enough': Petition calls for closure of Brooks, Alta. facility
An online petition calling for a temporary closure at JBS Foods in Brooks, Alta. already has over 17,400 signatures. (File)
CALGARY -- A petition addressed to Alberta Health, is expressing "grave concern" over working conditions at the JBS Foods meat packing plant in Brooks after hundreds have been sickened with COVID-19.
The online appeal, on Change.org, was established about two weeks ago.
As of May 4, 469 cases have been confirmed at the plant since the outbreak was discovered and workers claim there are serious issues there that put their safety at risk.
"Production at the plant is not conducive to physical-distancing and masks and PPE provided are inadequate to protect against the spread. Hundreds of workers have stopped coming to the work on the basis of safety and those that are working have expressed that they do not feel safe," the petition reads.
It is calling for an immediate temporary two-week closure at the plant as well as an in-person inspection to ensure all precautions are adequate.
UFCW Local 401, the union that represents workers at a number of beef production plants in Alberta, is actively pursuing a stop work order to force companies to temporarily shut down their facilities.
Union members held a demonstration outside the Cargill Protein in High River, Alta. Monday, showing support for workers who were brought in to work there.
"We have already seen what can happen if workers' concerns are ignored. We do not want to wait until death counts and hundreds more cases before action is taken," the petition says.
Meanwhile, JBS Canada says the emotional and physical health of all of its employees is a top priority.
"All of our collective energy needs to be focused on reducing risk of transmission throughout the facility and in every aspect of our daily lives. We have proactively identified and adopted more than 100 preventive measures at our Brooks facility to ensure a safe working environment for our team members," said Robert Meijer, media spokesperson in an email to CTV News.
Some of the measures include temperature testing of team members, access to personal protective equipment, increasing sanitation and disinfection protocols, physical distancing by staggering shifts, installing plexiglass dividers, requiring sick team members to stay home, never forcing anyone to come to work if they are ill and many more procedures.
More than 17,600 people have signed so far.