Cargill meat-processing plant south of Montreal says 64 workers infected with COVID-19

A meat-processing plant in Chambly, Que., will shut down "for the health and safety of employees" after an outbreak of COVID-19.

Factory shutting down operations Wednesday after 13% of workers infected with coronavirus

After a COVID-19 outbreak at the Cargill facility in Chambly, Que., the company says it is temporarily shutting the plant down. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

A meat-processing plant in Chambly, Que., will shut down "for the health and safety of employees" after an outbreak of COVID-19.

Its owner, Cargill, says 64 employees have the disease, which amounts to about 13 per cent of workers at the facility about 35 kilometres south of Montreal.

The union representing the plant workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), says 171 employees are already at home either because they are sick or have come into contact with someone showing symptoms.

Union spokesperson Roxanne Larouche says operations are winding down and all work will cease Wednesday.

She said protective measures such as the installation of plexiglass, staggered lunch breaks and the use of masks and visors were in place at the plant.

"Despite all these protective measures, zero risk does not exist," she said.

The Cargill plant prepares meat products for grocery stores and other retail clients. (CBC News)

The company says it will provide compensation for up to 36 hours of work per week while the plant, which prepares meat for grocery stores and other retail customers, remains idle. 

Workers will be tested for the virus on a voluntary basis, a Cargill spokesperson said, and that the plant will reopen "as soon as practically possible."

In a statement, the public health department for the Montérégie region says it has been working with the company since April 25 to deal with the outbreak.

Public health says all workers will be tested this week and that the company is "collaborating very well." 

It says the company decided on its own to shut down and was not ordered to do so.

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet said Sunday afternoon that businesses in the province will continue to reopen on a gradual basis while ensuring they are following the health and safety standards approved by public health.

As of last week, retail stores with their own entrance can open outside the Montreal area, and construction resumes across the province tomorrow.

"Cargill made the right move this morning," Boulet told CBC News of their decision to shut down. 

Another Cargill facility, in High River, Alta., shut down last month after hundreds of infections were linked to the plant, including one worker who died from the disease.

With files from Jaela Bernstien, Antoni Nerestant, Laura McQuillan and Radio-Canada

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