Maple Leaf workers frustrated, want plant to be closed for 2 weeks

By | August 24, 2020

WINNIPEG — Maple Leafs workers in Brandon are demanding action as there continues to be connections to COVID-19 at the plant.

Workers sent an open letter to Migrante Manitoba on Monday voicing their frustrations and what they want management and the provincial government to do.

Diwa Marcelino, who is an organizer with Migrante Manitoba, said workers feel like their concerns aren’t being heard.

“They’re concerned that physically distancing in the washrooms areas and other communal areas like the cafeteria is impossible,” said Marcelino. “They’re also concerned about access to hand washing and also sanitizers.”

As of Monday, Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial health officer, said there are 52 cases of COVID-19 linked to the Maple Leaf plant and 34 of those cases are active.

With these numbers and the recent rise in cases in the Brandon area as well as the Prairie Mountain Health Region, workers are demanding changes to keep them safe.

As part of the demands, workers are calling for the facility to be closed for two weeks and that the entire plant is deep cleaned.

The workers are also calling for COVID-19 testing for every employee as well as job security and wage protection for each and every employee while the plant is closed.

“The claim from the Maple Leaf President and CEO as well as the provincial government that the employees’ cases are linked to community gatherings and interactions, and are not linked to the plant is unacceptable,” the workers said in the letter.

“Many of our co-workers have limited interactions with the community outside of the facility, while seeing confirmed cases rising. It is clear that the spread of COVID among workers at Maple Leaf is a direct result of our employment at Maple Leaf, and the working and living conditions we endure while working for this company.

“It is not acceptable that the repeated calls to shut down the plant, and the concerns raised multiple times from UFCW which represents staff at the facility are being dismissed or ignored by the government. It is clear to us that the COVID cases are related to the facility’s inability to ensure safe working conditions or take workers’ voices seriously.”

Marcelino said one worker has also given an invitation to health officials and government officials to come to the plant.

“(They want them to) come join them for lunch and to use their use their washroom facilities to see how it is,” said Marcelino.

Other meat processing plants in Canada have been hit hard by COVID-19.

An outbreak at a Cargill meat processing plant in High River, Alta., saw 950 workers infected, and resulted in two deaths.

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