Union wants Cargill to pause High River beef processing plant after 38 workers test positive for COVID-19
Published Monday, April 13, 2020 6:29PM MDT Last Updated Monday, April 13, 2020 9:35PM MDT
CALGARY -- The union representing workers at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in High River is calling on the company to shut its doors for two weeks after 38 employees tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Tom Hesse, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said the plant employs over 2,000 people who work at the plant over two daily shifts.
"In workplaces like these, there are hundreds and hundreds of people really coagulating in one place to get the work done. Social distancing is very, very difficult in these places," Hesse said.
Hesse said the union started to become aware of the positive cases on Thursday and the official number was confirmed by the company on Sunday. Hesse said he is not sure if that number is on the rise.
In a letter addressed to Cargill Meat Solutions general manager Dale LaGrange, the union said the employer is not doing enough to protect employees and demanded Cargill close the facility for two weeks to conduct a comprehensive safety assessment, and guarantee all employees will be paid in full during the break.
"We are askingCargill and the government to intervene and set up a real set of rules that are enforceable with fines to solve this problem so people can bring food to the tables of Albertans without anyone having to die," Hesse told CTV News Monday.
The High River plant processes between 4,500 and 5,000 head of cattle per day.
In a statement, John Nash, the North American lead for Cargill Protein, said the company will temporarily reduce shifts at the High River plant effective Monday.
"This will allow us to minimize the impact of COVID-19 and continue to follow health department guidelines. This was a difficult decision for our team, but our values are guiding our actions," he said.