Poultry factory employees accuse employer of flouting COVID-19 regulations

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Some employees at the Supreme Poultry Factory in Mahikeng, in the North West, are accusing the company of not complying with COVID-19 regulations. They say they are working in areas that are not deep-cleaned or fumigated following positive cases of COVID-19.

The employees say dozens of workers have tested positive for the virus, but the factory has put few precautionary measures in place.

The unhappy workers – through their minority union – BEAWUSA  – say their employer is not putting sufficient precautionary measures in place to protect them.

“We are pointing out issues why we are saying that the company is not complying and the company that they are using, Eco-Wise – the employees of Eco-Wise were not trained for decontamination, so I don’t know how that particular company is the one decontaminating the place, which means the work is not being done properly. The last time we struggled to get the certificate from the company. Remember that when a company contaminates a working place, you must have a certificate of decontamination,” says the union’s North West provincial organiser, Tshepo Phiri.

But, the majority union, SACCAWU, says the accusations are baseless.

The union’s regional secretary, Thembani Jonas, says: “We are having shop stewards at Supreme Poultry especially in Mahikeng that are dealing with issues of workers on a daily basis, and it has never been brought to our attention that workers are exposed to unhealthy conditions of COVID-19. So those allegations are new to us. Those who are bringing these allegations must be able to bring specifics and must substantiate those allegations.”

According to the provincial department of health, inspections have been done at the factory, and the results showed that the factory does comply with COVID-19 regulations.

“What we discovered is that the management of the factory was able to produce documentation which showed that they have consistently followed COVID-19 requirements whenever there was a case. They also have records of fumigation and deep-cleaning which they seem to be doing regularly. What the department delegation discovered is that the employees themselves were not observing social distancing, some of them not even wearing the masks, which is their personal responsibility,” says departmental spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane.

In a written statement to the SABC News, Supreme Poultry said it does adhere to COVID-19 regulations.

Moreover, following the SABC’s enquiry, the provincial Department of Labour promised to visit the factory to do an inspection.