COVID-19 and food industry, worldwide


This 28 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Workers call for closure of meatpacking plant to avoid COVID-19

Some employees at JBS Beef in Tolleson fear catching COVID-19.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 30 June 2020:

Lawsuit charges Tyson foods culpable in death of three workers at Iowa pork plant

A lawsuit on behalf of the families of three workers who died of COVID-19 at Tyson’s largest pork-processing facility in Waterloo, Iowa was filed June 25. Sedika Buljic, aged 58, Reberiano Garcia, aged 60 and Jose Ayala, Jr., aged 44, died during the period April to May from the coronavirus under conditions where the company knowingly put workers at risk.

The Spence Law Firm is charging that the company was aware of the spread of the virus to the Waterloo plant, but concealed the information. As the contagion grew, management failed to implement safety measures. Lastly, in what an AP report called an “explosive claim,” Tyson, “allowed workers and subcontractors from another Iowa plant that had closed due to a coronavirus outbreak to begin working in Waterloo in April. Plant supervisors told employees that their sick coworkers had the flu and warned them not to discuss coronavirus at work.”

In an April newspaper ad, the company’s CEO John Tyson issued a warning that coronavirus and plant closures were leading to a breakdown in the “food supply chain” and there would be meat shortages. Meanwhile, Tyson’s exports of pork to China during the same month increased.

COVID-19 increase at UK’s 2 Sisters, Rowan and Kober meat processing factories. By Tony Robson, 1 July 2020. Inadequate and unsafe forms of transport, poor working conditions, and rundown accommodation are class issues bound up with the wealth extraction demanded by capitalism.

From daily News Line in Britain today:

Super-exploitation in Covid-infected meat factories

THE LINK between outbreaks of Covid-19 at meat processing plants and the sector’s widespread exploitation of migrant workers on low pay and insecure contracts ‘must be addressed’, the union Unite said yesterday.

Although conditions within refrigerated meat processing factories have been cited as a risk factor for coronavirus transmission, Unite said there is also a direct correlation between the treatment of migrant staff as ‘disposable assets’ and the spread of the disease in such environments.

This is particularly true in meat processing factories that do not provide staff who need to self-isolate with company sick pay or any other form of financial support, as it increases the danger of individuals with Covid-19 going into work because they cannot afford to take time off.

The union also raised concerns about track and trace record keeping for agency workers, such as production line staff and cleaners, who often work at multiple sites and whose contact details may not be available or could be overlooked during infection control procedures.

Industry employment standards are also directly linked to overcrowded housing which is a contributing factor to the risk of outbreaks within factories.

A recent Unite survey of 20 per cent of the workforce at a Covid-19 impacted meat processing plant staffed overwhelmingly by migrant workers, found that 43 per cent of respondents live with two or more colleagues (at least three to a house) and 11 per cent live with five or more.

Nearly 65 per cent of the 150 respondents said they have attended work whilst unwell, with 69 per cent of those doing so because they could not afford to lose pay. Just 10 per cent of respondents said they have been tested for Covid-19.

Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said: ‘Exploitation driven by corporate greed is a major factor in the public health emergencies amongst meat processing plants here and in other countries.

‘Migrant workers, who often do not speak English and are scared to speak out because they fear losing their jobs, suffer under a relentless system that long pre-dates Covid-19 in which they are treated without dignity or respect. Exploitation is so rife within the sector that Unite is also concerned that some workers are vulnerable to modern slavery.

‘This issue is now being brought to public attention because of its impact on the UK’s ability to stem the virus. People can see that the treatment of staff in the sector as disposable assets is unjust, unsustainable and a danger to public health.

‘As a priority, employers and government must end the terrible situation where workers are having to choose between self-isolating or going into work because they cannot afford to be ill.

‘It is imperative that ministers and industry commit to a root and branch reform of the meat processing sector. The dire working conditions, low pay and insecure employment that blight the industry and have now come back to bite the nation’s efforts to defeat the coronavirus must be addressed.’

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

At fish processor ProFish in Twello in Gelderland province, 43 workershave been infected with the coronavirus in recent weeks.

”I can get another job. I can’t get another life”. Food processing plants in Ohio and New York hit with outbreaks. By Alex Findijs, 1 July 2020. Outbreaks at salad and fruit processing plants in Springfield, Ohio, and Oswego, New York, show the vulnerability of food workers to the deadly disease.

1 thought on “COVID-19 and food industry, worldwide

  1. Pingback: Coronavirus disaster, worldwide news | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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