Against a background of mass COVID-19 infections of meat processing workers and resulting plant shutdowns, the IUF-affiliated UFCW has reached agreement with JBS, the world’s biggest meatpacking company, on safety protocols and a pay increase.
The agreement comes after a concerted union campaign for greater safety measures and greater recognition of the sacrifices made by meat workers who, like other food processing workers, are regarded as essential workers during the pandemic.
JBS employees will have access to masks, gloves and face shields and there will be enhanced cleaning throughout processing facilities. The space allocated for break rooms and cafeterias will be expanded to enable physical distancing, and plexiglass shields will be installed in areas of the plants where it is not possible to maintain sufficient distance between workers.
Beginning on April 20 and lasting through May 30 JBS employees will receive an additional USD 4 an hour. This will be in addition to a previously announced 600 dollar bonus payment.
Meat and poultry employers prioritized production as the coronavirus spread across the United States. The negotiation and implementation of appropriate safety measures has come late and at great cost. Hundreds of workers have fallen ill and some have died. In a rapidly changing environment the UFCW reported on April 20 that 9 meat processing plants had been indefinitely shut down, putting around 15,000 union members out of work.