3 more employees at Brandon Maple Leaf hog plant test positive for COVID-19

Three more employees at the sprawling Maple Leaf hog processing plant in Brandon tested positive for the novel coronavirus and now the workers’ union is calling for the plant to be temporarily shut down.

One employee had already tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, which a Maple Leaf spokesperson said appeared to have been contracted in the community, rather than at the hog plant.

Read more: Coronavirus case confirmed at Maple Leaf plant in Brandon, 2 new cases reported Wednesday

“Late… Wednesday, August 5, the union was made aware of three more positive-cases of COVID-19 among non-production unionized employees,” United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 wrote in a statement.

The union wants Maple Leaf to cease production until Aug. 10 at the earliest, the union local’s president Jeff Traeger wrote in a statement. “Until we have more results from the outstanding tests among our members at Maple Leaf.”

The company has no plan to cease production at the massive facility, which employs just under 2,000 unionized employees.

“It appears very likely that the team members contracted COVID-19 in the community. 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,” Janet Riley, Maple Leaf’s vice-president of communications and public affairs, said in a written statement.

Read more: Meat processing disruptions amid COVID-19 spur changes to Canadian beef supply, prices ahead of BBQ season

The plant operates daily health screenings and temperature checks, enforces physical distancing and mandates personal protective equipment for all workers, Riley wrote.

“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,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, the union isn’t budging on its call for a temporary closure of the pork processing plant.

“UFCW 832 continues to be in discussion with Maple Leaf management and will continue to push for a plant closure to keep our members safe,” the union’s statement reads.

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