Jan 15, 2021

Criminal Investigation into COVID-19 Death at Cargill

Union says "situation was as predictable as a mine explosion"

source: United Steelworkers (USW)

The United Steelworkers (USW) commends the RCMP for launching a criminal investigation into the workplace-related COVID-19 death at the Cargill meat processing plant in High River, AB.

In April 2020, the USW called for a criminal investigation into the death and the reported infection of nearly 1,000 workers at the Cargill plant.

“The events leading up to the death of a worker at the Cargill meat processing plant are inexcusable and must be investigated through a criminal lens,” says USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt.

Hunt said the Cargill situation was as predictable as a mine explosion, with workers working in close proximity and little or no protective gear.

“At Cargill, we had an inspector who, despite recommended social distancing and safety warnings, declared the workplace safe not long before one worker died and hundreds more tested positive. At the Westray Mine in 1992, inspectors declared the mine safe, despite clear violations of safety protocols and a buildup of methane-producing coal dust,” says Hunt.

The outbreak was avoidable if Cargill and the Alberta UCP government had listened to the concerns of the workers.

“It was the workers who first raised concerns about working conditions and a lack of personal protective equipment. They raised their concerns and they were ignored. The UCP’s Minister of Agriculture insisted that plant was completely safe, and then people started to get sick and die. Premier Jason Kenney has failed to keep Alberta workers safe. Instead, the Premier implemented Bill 47, making it harder for workers to refuse unsafe work during a time where workers need more protections to keep them healthy, safe and alive,” says Hunt.

“Killing workers should never be just a cost of doing business. Essential workers are not sacrificial and the workers at Cargill are no exception. Today’s announcement of the RCMP criminal investigation brings justice one step closer,” adds Hunt.

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