“We received several complaints from JBS employees starting in late March. The workers reported that they were crowded together both in the production line and in all other areas of the meatpacking plant (changing rooms, canteens, transport units) and that they lacked protective equipment such as masks,” she said.
“There were also cases of workers with symptoms of the disease who were not taken off the production line.”
In response, the Passo Fundo MPT launched an investigation that led to the filing of a public civil court action against JBS, demanding that the company close down the plant for a minimum of 14 days or until the workers could access coronavirus tests.
“We were able to verify that what the workers reported was true. Many wore masks they brought with them to work, which were mostly homemade and there was no guarantee they met health standards,” Schvarcz notes.
The prosecutor indicated that several attempts were made to contact the company before filing the civil court action.
“We tried to get in touch with JBS Passo Fundo, but management refused to attend the meetings the MPT requested. They have now been summoned to a hearing this afternoon at the Labor Court, which will be held via video conference call,” she informed.
The leading point of contagion
The MPT demands that after the suspension of activities for 14 days the company take all the necessary health measures, including a mandatory distance of 1.8 meters between workers in the production line and in all other areas of the plant.
The company will also be required to provide protective masks and plastic face shields, ensure active health monitoring, cover the cost of testing for any workers suspected of carrying the virus, and offer the H1N1 (influenza) vaccine.
“This action is necessary because, according to the Municipal Health Secretariat, JBS is the main COVID-19 contagion site in Passo Fundo, but also because it has the aggravating factor that many of its employees live in other municipalities of the region, which makes the risk of spreading the disease dangerously exponential.”