Two of Brampton’s biggest employers continue to grapple with COVID-19
Photos from The Pointer files/Union Local 1285

Two of Brampton’s biggest employers continue to grapple with COVID-19


It’s clear from the tone of the statement, Maple Lodge Farms knew it was only a matter of time. Earlier this week the poultry processor announced it had confirmed its first case of COVID-19 inside its Brampton facility. 

“Given the prevalence of the virus in our communities and the large number of people we employ, we were prepared for this eventuality,” the company states. 

Ahead of the outbreak, Maple Lodge, which employs about 1,700 people in Brampton, developed an emergency plan to respond should a positive case arise at one of its facilities. Similar to many other businesses, Maple Lodge has suspended visitors from entering the plant, implemented employee screening policies, and has mandated that staff wear masks while practicing physical distancing at all times inside the facility, all things that have become the norm in our COVID-19 infected world. 

 

Maple Lodge Farms, which employs approximately 1,700 people in Brampton, confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in the facility this week. 

 

“The Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour deem our increased sanitation measures, along with the physical distancing measures, the additional PPE issued to production workers, and the requirement to wear masks at all times in all areas of our facility, to be appropriate preventative measures to keep our employees well-protected in the workplace,” the company states. 

Maple Lodge Farms is certainly not the first business to announce an outbreak in Peel. It’s not even the first food processing plant to have confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus inside its walls. In April, the Maple Leaf plant in Brampton announced a staff member had tested positive for the virus. 

While these outbreaks place these large companies in the same boat as many who are dealing with the presence of COVID-19, food processing is receiving particular concern, mostly because these huge operations are part of the supply chain that takes food from farm to factory to our tables. 

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), this concern may be a bit unwarranted as there is no evidence to suggest food is a likely source of transmission of the virus. 

“At this time, there have been no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19,” the CFIA website states. 

It’s not clear how COVID-19 will impact Brampton’s food processors, but last week the federal government announced $252 million in a slew of new grant programs for the agriculture and food sector to ensure supply chains remain running during the pandemic.

“Canadians count on farmers and producers to provide them with the food they need to feed themselves and their families. Today, we are giving them the support they need to keep their workers safe and food systems running during this challenging time, for the benefit of all Canadians,” stated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a news release. 

In the Region of Peel, as of May 7, there are 2,864 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, nearly 20 percent of which are in the region’s long-term care homes. 

In recent days, the region has seen a gradual reduction in the rate of new cases confirmed each day, the continuation of a trend that has been observed for much of the last three weeks. 

Between March 27 and April 3, Peel’s new cases of COVID-19 were increasing by an average of 22 percent everyday. However, between April 4 and 12, cases only increased 10 percent per day, on average, in the region. Over the last week, cases have been increasing between less than 1 percent to 3 percent per day. It signals that physical distancing measures are having the desired effect, and community transmission of the virus is slowly dissipating. 

The numbers have convinced another of Brampton’s key employers that it’s time to get back to work. 

 

Near the end of March, the Fiat Chrysler plant where almost 3,500 people are employed, shutdown its assembly line in the face of the global pandemic. Since that time, the plant has undergone a thorough deep clean, and despite several false starts in terms of dates for workers to return to the assembly line, the company now has workers tentatively scheduled to return on May 19. 

According to a notice posted to the local union’s website, one shift is planned for May 19 followed by the second shift starting on May 25. 

Along with the thorough cleaning the facility has undergone, workers will be required to wear surgical masks in the facility and complete a health assessment form ahead of their shift. Additional time is also being allotted for breaks to ensure employees can wash up properly, and the breaks and lunches will have staggered times to avoid large lines in the cafeteria and washrooms.

 

The Fiat Chrysler plant in Brampton has installed a number of barriers between work stations to protect employees from COVID-19 when they return to work on May 19.  

 

A package is being sent to workers at the plant that will include the proper forms as well as forehead thermometer strips to take each employee’s temperature. 

“With all the checks that will need to be done prior to entering the plant, we know there will be issues. When those issues arise, we work to resolve them as quickly as possible,” states Ardis Snow, the Brampton plant chairperson in a union notice posted online. 

Since the plant’s closure, the union states that one employee has tested positive for the virus and fully recovered. All of those who came into contact with the employee were notified, but none of them developed symptoms.

 


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoeljWittnebel


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