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Cargill statement on reopening High River Alberta Protein Facility

April 29, 2020

Cargill, with support from Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS), today announced the decision to resume operations at its High River, Alta. Protein facility beginning May 4.  

All employees who are eligible to return to work in our harvest department are asked to report to work. In keeping with our extensive focus on safety, we want to emphasize that employees are required to have had no symptoms of illness and not had contact with anyone with the COVID-19 virus for 14 days. Further, all social distancing and infection prevention and control measures, including employee screening, masking and changes to locker room and lunch room workflows, are continuing in the facility. 

During the 14-day temporary closure, we implemented additional safety measures to respond to the community-wide impacts of the virus. In partnership with AHS, we:  

  • Reduced likelihood of carpooling to reduce potential for transmission in transit 
  • Limited access to the plant to no more than two people per car (sitting in the front and back seat to maintain proper social distance) 
  • Provided buses that have been retrofitted with protective barriers between the seats to alleviate the need for carpooling from multiple areas 
  • It is understood that employees living in the same household will be granted a variance to the carpooling limitation 
  • Worked with OHS through both virtual and in-person tours of the plant so they can see firsthand the work being done to protect and minimize the risk to our employees while on site. 
  • Added additional barriers in the bathrooms and reassigned lockers to allow for necessary spacing 
  • Conducted extensive COVID-19 sanitation process, including additional cleaning in the parts of our facility that have been closed for 21-days 
  • Continued to focus on education and awareness of social distancing inside and outside of work. Including not sharing food during meals.  

Since the beginning of March, we have also implemented the following steps in conjunction with AHS: 

  • Developed screening questions prior to entering the plant which includes questions on any illness related symptoms, question on recent travel out of the province and any close contact with someone who has COVID-19. 
  • Initiated temperature screening in addition to the screening questions each day. 
  • Prohibited all unnecessary visitors to the facility. 
  • Increased sanitation throughout the day in all common areas and office spaces, including additional sanitation each night in these areas as well. 
  • Increased available space in the break room by utilizing meeting rooms and installed dividers throughout the break room to eliminate point-to-point contact with others. 
  • Mapping and re-assigning lockers in the locker room to reduce crowding and level the flow of employees through the locker room. 
  • Installed protective barriers on the production floor between employees. 
  • Provided full face shields for any job where the protective barrier is not possible due to job movement. 
  • Progressed from encouraging personal face masks to providing them and making their use mandatory based on health guidance.  

Again, all of the above measures remain in place.

Our employees have been deemed essential workers  –  like healthcare providers and first responders. To recognize the contributions of our team we have kept our commitment and taken steps to show our gratitude by:  

  • Paying those who have worked, or were scheduled to work, this week, 36 hours of pay for the week. 
  • Continuing to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave to those requiring time off work to deal with COVID-19 illness, as previously announced; and 
  • Providing a weekly guarantee of 36 hours for the week of April 27. This pay decision was made by Cargill to avoid any temporary layoffs and is beyond what is required by our labour agreement.   

“In partnership with health, regulatory officials and after taking actions suggested by the local union, we have made the decision to reopen our facility in High River, following a 14-day idle,” said Jon Nash, North America protein lead.  “We look forward to welcoming our employees back and are focused on our ongoing commitment to safety. We know being an essential worker is challenging and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers and products for our customers’ shelves.   

Nash added, “We have been working in lockstep with AHS since early March to lead on the implementation of proactive safety measures within the facility. Over the last 14 days, we have taken several additional actions to manage COVID-19 and make our facility an even safer place for our employees to work. We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS and OHS and have welcomed them for site visits which served to validate the enhanced safety measures in our facility. 

We care about our employees and this community because we live and work here. Our hearts are with our friends and colleagues who have been impacted by the virus. We will continue to put people first as and do the right thing as we navigate this difficult time together.”