According to the plant’s owner Cargill, 65 employees — or 13 per cent of its local workforce — have tested positive for novel coronavirus.
“Cargill is working in close partnership with local health officials and the union to test our employees as soon as possible,” a Cargill spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Global News.
The spokesperson said the “idling process” at the facility has already begun with employees working through materials on hand to avoid food waste.
The plant is expected to close sometime this week, depending on how long the idling process takes.
“As we continue to 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,” the statement reads.
According to Cargill, the company is providing up to 80 hours of paid leave to employees requiring time off to deal with a COVID-19 illness, and employees will be paid up to 36 hours while the plant is idle.
“This is being provided in addition to standard benefits, as we show our gratitude to our valued employees,” the statement said.
A spokeswoman for the union representing the workers — the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) — told the Canadian Press that the plant in Chambly, Que., will close as of Wednesday so all its workers can be tested.
Roxanne Larouche says 171 workers were sent home last week as a preventative measure, and 50 of them have tested negative.
She says the workplace had implemented safety measures for employees, including installing plexiglass between workers where possible, staggering arrival and departure times and providing masks, visors and safety glasses.
Word of the plant closure comes just a month after another Cargill facility in Alberta shuttered, with more than 900 of its employees having tested positive for coronavirus.
That beef-packing plant located in High River has since reopened.
–With files from The Canadian Press