TORONTO – Cargill, Maple Leaf Foods and Olymel LP agreed to increase pay and strengthen worker safety protocols at the companies’ Canadian operations in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As of March 23, the companies will pay a fixed bonus of C$2 per hour to all front-line employees who are paid by the hour. Employees in pork production, slaughtering operations, processing, further processing, transportation, maintenance and warehousing became eligible for the bonus which may represent an extra C$80 per week.

“The strength and determination that meat processing members have shown as they work to sustain Canada’s food supply chain is truly admirable, and these wage premiums and enhanced safety measures are welcomed steps in recognizing the integral work of members during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Paul Meinema, national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Canada.

Additionally, the companies have implemented a series of measures aimed at enhancing employee safety including:

  • the distribution of an information guide on COVID-19;
  • the creation and implementation of action plans to optimize common areas at processing facilities and modify scheduled breaks and lunchtimes in order to maximize social distancing measures;
  • the adoption of additional disinfection measures for common areas;
  • the required 14-day self-isolation paid by the employer of all employees returning from abroad, as well as temporary foreign workers arriving after government directives were issued; and
  • the prohibition of visits to processing establishments and all non-essential travel.

“Olymel has mobilized all of its HR staff to support its employees through this crisis,” said Réjean Nadeau, president and chief executive officer of Olymel. “This mobilization will continue for as long as necessary. Our company intends to efficiently meet the food needs of the population and appreciates the agri-food production and processing sectors being designated as essential manufacturing activities by governments, particularly in Quebec.

“Like the population and the governments, we recognize the essential nature of the work our employees are doing. Despite the difficult circumstances, they are working hard to produce safe and healthy food that the population needs.”