In this file:
· AU: Meatworks and coronavirus: The 'domino effect' from Victoria's abattoirs pushing COVID-19 case numbers higher
· U.S. meatpackers don’t have many answers for lack of distancing
Meatworks and coronavirus: The 'domino effect' from Victoria's abattoirs pushing COVID-19 case numbers higher
By Nino Bucci, ABC News Australia
Jul 25, 2020
You used to be able to smell the meatworks in Melbourne's western suburbs before you could see them.
The first abattoirs operated on the banks of the Maribyrnong, and butchers dumped offal straight into the river. As Footscray became the industrial heartland of Melbourne, the meat business expanded and pushed further west into factories close to the railway line.
The meatworks that have survived are rarely smelt and hardly seen, tucked away amongst shuttered warehouses and faded shipping containers.
But Victoria's meat processing businesses are on the nose again; they have been linked to almost 300 cases of coronavirus in the state, with the industry responsible for more cases than any other outside the aged care and education sectors.
As of Saturday, there were 80 cases linked to Somerville Retail Services (SRS) in Tottenham, which provides packaged meat for Coles Supermarkets.
There were 45 linked to the Australian Lamb Company in the south-west Victorian town of Colac, and at least 62 connected to JBS Australia in Brooklyn and at least five cases at Ingham's poultry processing facility in Thomastown.
The cases came after 111 infections connected to Cedar Meats, which was the largest cluster in Victoria until earlier this month.
Coronavirus and the 'domino effect'
Cedar Meats, SRS and JBS are located walking distance apart in a small triangle in Melbourne's west, bordered by Somerville Road, Geelong Road, and the Kororoit Creek.
Paul Conway, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, has worked in the industry since 1980, when he took a job on the mutton line of a Geelong abattoir.
Much has changed in the past four decades, including an increasingly casualised workforce.
Many workers in the industry had no choice but to show up for shifts even if they had symptoms, Mr Conway said.
The nature of the work also meant that hundreds of people had to leave and arrive at exactly the same time each day to start their shifts, making it near impossible to socially distance.
Mr Conway said that in some families, a spouse worked a day shift while their partner started in the afternoon, meaning infections could quickly spread within the same business.
"A lot of people didn't adhere to the requirements and it's that community contact from outside which is bringing it into the abattoirs," he said.
"We know there are groups of people who are still not socially distancing. They're carpooling with other workers or family members, dropping some off at different sites on the way.
"One of them gets it and it's just a domino effect."
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more, including chart, infographic
U.S. meatpackers don’t have many answers for lack of distancing
vioa TribLive (PA) - July 25, 2020
As part of an investigation into the spread of coronavirus at U.S. meat plants, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker released responses from major producers that defended their operations during the pandemic.
The four biggest meatpackers — Tyson Foods Inc., JBS USA, Cargill Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc. — pointed to measures such as staggering shifts and sanitation systems, but gave soft responses when it came to implementing social distancing in production areas of the plants where workers are often in elbow-to-elbow conditions.
The letters amount to some of the most extensive explanations to date about how the meat producers responded to the crisis.
The companies gave no indication that workers were consistently being spaced apart on production lines. Cargill said it was raising “awareness” over maintaining distance, while Tyson said it installed barriers on production lines where “social distancing is not possible.” JBS said it increased spacing in cafeterias, but didn’t cite distancing measures for production lines.
Meanwhile, Smithfield gave a more straightforward response.
“For better or worse, our plants are what they are,” Chief Executive Officer Ken Sullivan said. “Four walls, engineered design, efficient use of space, etc. Spread out? OK. Where? To say it is a challenge is an understatement.”
Thousands of America’s meat workers have fallen ill with coronavirus as infections spread rapidly through the cramped factories, and dozens have died. While companies took steps to protect employees — including by installing plexiglass barriers, distributing protective equipment and setting up hand-washing stations — experts and analysts have repeatedly warned that workers would remain vulnerable without an increase in physical distance on production lines.
The senators criticized the companies for not adequately allowing workers to keep 6 feet away from one another and for shipping pork and beef overseas to meet export orders during the outbreak.
None of the companies gave specifics on the number of cases or deaths at their plants.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that these giant meatpackers can use their power to exploit their workers for profit,” Warren said in a statement. “We also need to massively reform our broken food and farm system to give workers, farmers, and consumer real bargaining power.”
Following are highlights of the responses sent to the senators from the companies:
JBS USA ...