Alberta beef plant returning to two shifts per day after COVID-19 outbreak

Alberta beef plant returning to two shifts per day after COVID-19 outbreak

BROOKS, Alta. — The JBS beef-processing plant in southern Alberta was planning to return to two shifts a day on Thursday for the first time in a month.

The company had reduced operations at the plant to one daily shift of between 700 and 1,100 employees after some tested positive for COVID-19 and others did not show up for work.

JBS Canada spokesman Rob Meijer said the company has implemented more than 100 safety measures at the plant since January, including temperature tests of all workers entering the plant, providing and requiring face masks, and physical partitions on production lines.

“We have been working closely with public-health and labour officials each and every day to implement rigorous risk mitigation practices throughout our facility,” Meijer said Wednesday in a release.

“It is important to note that the move back to two shifts will not increase the number of employees in the facility at any one time. We will continue to make all decisions based on the best available data and advice from both our team members and public-health officials.”

Alberta Health said Wednesday that 650 workers at the JBS plant have tested positive for COVID-19 and one has died. Eleven cases remain active and 638 employees have recovered.

The JBS plant managed to remain open at a time when Cargill temporarily shut down its beef operation in High River, Alta., for two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak that saw 951 infections and two deaths. Alberta Health says 943 people have recovered. Six cases remain active.

The two plants together process about 70 per cent of Canada’s beef.

The Alberta government delayed the first phase of its economic reopening plan in both Brooks and Calgary because of the continued threat of infection in the two cities.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union represents workers at JBS and Cargill. It said its members are afraid to go back to work despite changes to safety procedures, but need the money.

“We’re still extremely nervous and extremely cautious about any kind of suggestion that the plants are safe,” said Michael Hughes from UFCW Local 401.

“In Brooks, 500 people were afraid for their lives because of this terrible virus and we have members at JBS who were sleeping in their cars because they were going to work and didn’t want to bring the virus home to their families.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2020

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Food Truck Fridays to start new Drive and Dash events next week

Events will be held in Westerner Park parking lot Thursday evenings, Friday afternoons all June

Alberta gov’t to expand mental health supports

The Government of Alberta says a $21.6-million investment will expand online resources… Continue reading

City of Red Deer encouraged residents to participate in Food Bank Ninja Challenge

The City of Red Deer is encouraging residents to participate in a… Continue reading

Central Alberta naturalists fear pristine headwaters will be contaminated by coal mine

Chutes of the Ram constitute one of Earth’s ‘most beautiful’ spots

READER VIDEO: American White Pelicans spotted in Red Deer River

A Red Deer Advocate reader spotted a group of American White Pelicans… Continue reading

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Tooting the importance of whistling

OK, so someone who tattles on another person is a whistleblower, and… Continue reading

Police see increase in speedy drivers on quieter streets during pandemic

Police across the country say they’ve been dealing with more complaints about loud, fast vehicles

‘What do we do now?’ Labour dispute at Regina refinery nears 6 months

About 700 unionized workers were locked out by refinery owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., Dec. 5

International student worry about pandemic as decisions loom on travel to Canada

Zohra Shahbuddin is weighing whether to enrol this fall or put off coming to Canada until next year

How finding a ministerial home for CMHC caused ‘madness’ in November

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. manages the national housing strategy

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

The jackpot for the next draw on June 2 will be approximately $15 million

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

Most Read