An Olymel worker is disappointed more employees did not access COVID-19 vaccination clinics held last week at the pork processing plant.
Olymel currently has about 1,700 workers, and 642 were vaccinated at clinics that ran May 4 to 6. Another 274 have been vaccinated in the community.
“Basically after Wednesday afternoon, there was hardly anyone in there,” said worker Tamas Raba about the clinic where he was vaccinated during his shift.
“This is a medical emergency. It’s your health. It’s your community,” said Raba, who scolded workers who have not been vaccinated.
Earlier this year, Olymel had about 500 cases of COVID-19 and four fatalities linked to the outbreak, including three workers who died.
Raba, who has worked at Olymel for 29 years, said workers like to complain about Olymel, but the company has done a lot to reduce the spread of COVID. Cleaning staff regularly disinfect surfaces, dividers have been installed, employees wear masks and face shields, extra staff have been hired to make sure people follow COVID rules.
“People are going behind you, in front of you, with spray bottles. They’re wiping the door handles, disinfecting the microwave, disinfecting the table, the paper towel dispenser.”
He said he feels safe working at Olymel, but employees who work second and third jobs, and haven’t gotten vaccinated, should be thinking of the community.
“The virus doesn’t stop at Olymel. It’s everywhere,” Raba said.
Olymel spokesperson Richard Vigneault said the company was pleased that a total of 916 people at Olymel have been vaccinated.
“But we’ll still work on it. The more people are vaccinated, the better it is,” Vigneault said.
“We are strongly encouraging our employees, everyone of them, management as well as unionized, to get vaccinated.”
Olymel has promised workers a $50 bonus to get vaccinated — $25 for each shot. Assistance is also available to help workers book appointments in the community.
He said Olymel appreciated Alberta Health Services setting up onsite clinics. More clinics may be held but AHS has not confirmed any yet. Olymel will continue to maintain safety measures, and work with AHS, as the pandemic continues.
Alberta Health said there has been a total of 551 COVID-19 cases linked to Olymel and 10 cases are active.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which represents Olymel workers, was not immediately available for comment on Friday.