Meat giant Tyson is facing criticism as at least 4,585 of its workers have been infected with COVID-19, with 18 dying from the infection, according to Business Insider (BI).
Despite the numbers, the U.S. meat processing company is not still not offering full paid sick leave for workers, the outlet reports.
Instead, it initially offered short term disability (with a waived waiting time) at 60 percent of workers’ wages. At the end of April, it raised short-term disability coverage to 90 percent of workers’ wages until the end of June.
Tyson says it has improved its safety measures and relaxed its attendance policies, telling BI that raising short term disability payments was ‘another way of encouraging team members to stay home when they are sick’.
The safety measures include requiring workers to wear face masks, extra deep cleaning of facilities, workstation dividers, and taking worker temperatures.
The treatment of meat workers has already been under the spotlight, as the facilities have been described as COVID-19 hotspots. Despite the spread of infection, at the end of last month U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order to compel the facilities stay open during the pandemic.
The U.S. president signed the order after meat giant Tyson took out full-page ads in national newspapers warning of impending meat shortages. Trump told reporters that slaughterhouses closed because of ‘sort of a legal roadblock more than anything else’ adding that the order solves ‘liability problems’.
The move was unpopular with unions, with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union saying: “We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products.”