COVID cases confirmed at Blumenort poultry processor

Plant processing as usual, but contingency plans in place say turkey, chicken producers

[UPDATED: Oct. 21, 2020] Twenty-seven workers at Blumenort’s Exceldor Co-operative poultry processing plant have tested positive for COVID-19 the company confirmed Oct. 21.

The plant remains open and processing as usual. The company says there is no evidence of workplace transmission.

*“As far as our operations are concerned, we do not foresee any major impact for the moment,” said Gabrielle Fallu, senior public relations advisor for Exceldor in an emailed statement.

The facility, just north of Steinbach, was formerly known as Granny’s Poultry and employs about 650 people.

Fallu said the company is working closely with public health and has implemented all their recommendations.

“We are working day and night to stay ahead of it,” she said. “We do not have evidence of workplace transmission. Exceldor investigated every single one of the cases and results show that all the measures in place are effective in avoiding contamination among employees in the workplace.”

The company is dealing with cases of community transmission outside of the plant, said Fallu.

“Several workers live together or commute together, which may have led to this situation within our employees,” she added.

“While we are concerned with how quickly numbers are rising in this plant, we are working with the company to ensure our member’s stress and concerns are looked after, and safety is the top priority,” said Bea Bruske, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 832, which represents workers at the plant.

In a statement sent to media, Bruske said Workplace Health and Safety has already been to the plant, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will tour the facility on Friday.

Exceldor Co-operative already had multiple safety measures in place said Bruske. Masks are mandatory in the plant, workers are screened when they arrive and the plant is sanitized regularly.

“We are also glad there are options in place to cover members’ lost wages through the Blue Cross Plan, but this only covers workers who are positive, not workers who are sent home as contact cases,” said Bruske. “This highlights a need for Paid Sick Days to be a priority for workers to be brought in both during this pandemic and after.”

Both Manitoba Turkey Producers and Manitoba Chicken Producers sent statements to the Co-operator saying their industries have contingency plans in place with various stakeholders.

“The developed contingency plan takes into account several scenarios, including multiple layers of a hypothetical processing plant closure,” said Wayne Hiltz, executive director of Manitoba Chicken Producers. “We are confident that the contingency plan would allow for all chicken being farmed to have access to processing.”

*Update: Comments by Gabrielle Fallu were added.

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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