Cargill meat plant shut down – A Cargill meat processing plant, located in Chambly in Quebec’s Monteregie region, will temporarily shut down after 64 workers tested positive with the Covid-19 virus. This comes after their Cargill plant in High River, Alberta had to be closed on April 20th for two weeks, when over 900 workers also tested positive. The Monteregie region public health department said they have been working with Cargill since April 25th and that the company decided to shut down on its own, even though it was not ordered to do so.
UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) union spokesperson Roxane Larouche, said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Sunday May 10th, that the factory nurse sent 171 workers home last week as a preventive measure and 30 of them have already been diagnosed with the virus. “What has been decided with public health, in collaboration with Cargill, is that from (this) Wednesday the factory will be closed in order to carry out the tests and the reopening is planned at the time when we have enough workers to restart this factory,” she stated and added that several measures had been previously put forward in the hope of avoiding such a scenario, such as the wearing of glasses, a visor and masks by the employees on the production line, as well as the installation of Plexiglas. Employees’ arrival and departure times were also shifted between the different shifts and she said that there has been good cooperation between the employer and the union, as well as with the Monteregie public health authorities.
All union members will be receiving their wages during the closure. ‘We are granting up to 80 hours paid leave to people who need to take time off work to cope with COVID-19. While the plant is shut down, employees will be paid up to 36 hours plus the usual benefits, as we want to show our gratitude to our employees’, Cargill stated in an email. The decision was of course welcomed by the union. “The idea behind that is that we don’t want workers to have to choose between their financial health and their physical health. We especially don’t want a worker not to reveal his symptoms or to acknowledge that he has been in contact with someone declared positive because he is afraid of losing his salary,” Larouche said.