Food processing workers at meat plants across Canada are working hard on the front lines to make protein products for families and neighbourhoods across the country.
There have been more than 1,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases of food processing workers, so far. Some of these workers battling COVID-19 are in critical condition and some have died.
The federal government recently announced $77 million for food processing companies – in response to the pandemic – but the details of how the money will be distributed are still uncertain.
Food workers must have a central role in determining the conditions and criteria for the “Emergency Processing Fund.”
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!
For weeks, Canada’s food processing workers have been calling for the following measures – recommended by food worker advocates around the world – and have received no commitments from the federal government on these basic provisions:
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.
Protecting food workers and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Canada’s food manufacturing facilities, requires a consistent approach guided by stakeholders – unions and employers – and enforced by government.
Food workers need action NOW!