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Solidarity with UFCW Workers during COVID-19

Statement
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 19:10

The Council of Canadians is in full solidarity with UFCW workers who are being forced to work in unsafe conditions at Cargill meat-packing plants in Canada.  

In High River, Alberta at the Cargill meat-packing plant, workers and their unions raised safety concerns about 38 known cases at the plant. The plant continued to operate and now three workers have died of COVID-19, and over 1,500 cases of COVID-19 can be linked the plant. Another Cargill plant in Quebec will close to allow all workers to be tested following a COVID-19 outbreak.  

People must come before profit, and worker safety is paramount. Unsafe work is a public health crisis in COVID-19, and puts entire communities at risk. 

UFCW is calling for the following measures to improve safety for workers: 

  • Ensuring that workers are able to work two meters (6.5 feet) apart from each other throughout their working day. This is possible through modification to work organization, work scheduling and rest breaks. There may need to be changes to the design of the workstations such as the installation of Perspex, Plexiglas or similar material to shield workers from potentially infecting each other; 

  • Reducing the speed and amount of product on the line to help ensure two-meter spacing between workers. This must be achieved without eliminating any positions; and decisions regarding shifts, work sharing arrangements, and overtime must involve the union; 

  • Provision of adequate hand washing and sanitizer stations and increasing the number of breaks so handwashing may become a routine part of the work; 

  • Ensuring regular, thorough cleaning and sanitation of the workplace, including restrooms and lunchrooms. All shared surfaces (e.g. workbenches, door handles, handrails, and keyboards) must be cleaned regularly; 

  • Provision of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) – although this cannot be a substitute for appropriate spacing between workers; 

  • Making arrangements for safe travel to and from the workplace to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19; and 

  • Posting the agreed workplace protocols on noticeboards in languages that all workers can understand and maintaining regular communication. 

Take action: 

Sign UFCW’s petition and tell the Government of Canada that taxpayer money to corporations must first guarantee the health and safety of workers – and food workers must have a say in determining the conditions of their own health and safety!