BRANDON, MANITOBA – Maple Leaf Foods confirmed that four employees at its Brandon, Manitoba, pork processing plant have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 832 is asking the company to shut down the facility, which employs about 2,000 of its members.
“Upon learning of the positive tests, we immediately implemented our COVID-19 response plan,” said Janet Riley, vice president of communications and public affairs at Maple Leaf Foods. “As a precaution, we have asked several other team members to self-quarantine. We also informed our team members, the CFIA and the union.”
Jeff Traeger, president of UFCW Local 832, said, “UFCW 832 is now calling for Maple Leaf in Brandon to cease production until Monday, Aug. 10, at the earliest, until we have more results from the outstanding tests among our members at Maple Leaf.”
Processing operations at the plant are continuing, according to the company.
“After a careful and detailed review of the circumstances around the cases, it appears very likely that the team members contracted COVID-19 in the community,” Riley said. “We will continue to operate our Brandon plant as long as we believe we can provide an environment that will protect the safety of our people while working. Given our daily health screening, temperature monitoring, social distancing and the personal protective equipment all team members wear while at work, we feel confident that our plant environment is safe.”
All four employees are recovering at their homes, the company said.
On the afternoon of Aug. 6, Maple Leaf invited public health and workplace safety authorities, as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to complete a joint inspection of the plant. "The outcome of this inspection was a positive reinforcement of the rigorous steps Maple Leaf Foods is taking to provide a safe work environment and prevent workplace spread of COVID-19, including barriers, ventilation, distancing, screening, monitoring and enforcement protocols. As a result, Public Health and CFIA officials support our decision to continue operating," the company said.
Maple Leaf has joined meat processing companies around the world that have implemented multiple safety measures to protect employees from contracting and spreading coronavirus.
“Our plants and people have transformed how they operate through social distancing, plexiglass separators on production lines where possible, marks on floors to control movement in certain directions and efforts to decrease density, like staggered shifts and additional break space. These changes can be seen in a video about our efforts,” Riley said.