MONTREAL — Cargill Ltd. has halted operations at its meat-packing plant near Montreal after 64 employees tested positive for COVID-19. This is the company’s second Coronavirus-related shutdown in Canada.
According to a story in the Globe & Mail, the company said yesterday it will “temporarily idle” its facility in Chambly, Que. The action comes just one week after Cargill reopened its slaughterhouse in High River, Alta., which was closed for two weeks when nearly half of its 2,000 employees tested positive for the virus. Most of the workers at the High River facility have now recovered, and the company has increased health-and-safety measures there.
The first COVID-19 case was identified at the Chambly plant near end of April, said Roxane Larouche, a spokeswoman for the Quebec wing of United Food and Commercial Workers, adding last Wednesday, 171 employees missed work owing to symptoms or because Cargill’s health staff sent them home because they had close contact with employees with symptoms or positive results.
In Chambly, Larouche said Cargill implemented physical-distancing measures at the plant, provided personal-protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and visors to employees early in the pandemic and took steps that exceeded Quebec’s standards.
“From the very beginning, it was never a question of production. It always was a question of protecting the workers,” she said. “Everything was in place to protect those workers, but this is a strong virus.”
In a statement, Graham White, who works for National Public Relations, the firm speaking on behalf of Cargill in Canada, said the company’s employees in Chambly will be paid for 36 hours while the plant is shuttered. Cargill will also cover up to 80 hours of paid leave for people needing time away to deal with COVID-19. Everyone who works at the plant is now being tested, prompting the closing, Larouche said. The facility could resume operations as soon as next week, should enough employees test negative.