CALGARY — The Alberta government announced Monday that a second employee at Cargill’s High River, Alta. plant has died of COVID-19.
According to the Regina Leader-Post, Alberta’s Opposition NDP and union leaders are now calling for the meat-packing plant — which processes about 4,500 head of cattle a day — to be closed so it can be determined whether the company is meeting legal obligations to involve workers in safety concerns.
The union said more employee involvement is needed to make sure the slaughterhouse is safe.
“If workers aren’t in the process of determining if the workplace is safe, they’re not going to feel safe in returning to work. It’s a matter of not just procedure and law, but also of the perception among our members as to whether or not the plant is safe,” says Michael Hughes of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.
Hughes said the union has been asking to be involved in a review of the plant since the outbreak began.
In April, the plant shut down for two weeks in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 but re-opened last week. On Monday, the province reported there are 36 active cases among workers from the plant and 911 have recovered.
On Sunday, another Cargill plant south of Montreal announced it will temporarily close its doors after at least 64 workers there tested positive for COVID-19.
A statement from Cargill said Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has given the company more time to complete its investigation into the High River plant and to further involve the facility’s joint health and safety committee.
“It is common during an investigation for OHS officers to direct the employer to consider additional information as part of the investigation,” the statement said. “Cargill fully intends on co-operating with the OHS officer’s direction and will consider further recommendations from the committee, if any.”
Cargill said OHS would be required by law to issue a stop-work order if the plant were found to be unsafe and that hasn’t happened.