Employee of Calgary chicken plant tests positive for COVID-19, union says

An employee of a southeast Calgary chicken processing plant has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the union that represents those workers.

The Lilydale plant, located in Ramsay at 2126 Hurst Road S.E., is owned by Sofina Foods Inc., which operates 16 plants across Canada.

United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union local 401 spokesperson Michael Hughes said the union sent a letter to Sofina Foods on Tuesday calling for the plant’s closure.

“That plant in particular, it’s an older facility, there are cramped quarters … listening to the members, we were getting so many calls as soon as the first case was announced,” Hughes said. “This is one case, but if Cargill has taught us anything … the way this virus is spreading, we have no idea how extensive this can be.”

The Lilydale chicken processing plant in Ramsay was slated to move into the Dufferin North industrial area sometime in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Google Maps)

Sofina Foods has not yet responded to a request for comment from CBC News. Hughes said the union has yet to receive a response to its letter.

“[At Cargill] you went from five cases on a Thursday to 38 on Sunday then 358 on Friday. And now we’re over 500 [Cargill linked cases],” Hughes said. “We can’t hesitate on this. If we’re wrong calling for the closure and it saves one life, that’s okay.”

Alberta Health Services said it could not provide comment on individual cases Wednesday night.

As of Wednesday, there are 580 cases linked to the outbreak at the Cargill facility near High River, 440 of whom are Cargill employees. One worker has died. 

The JBS meat plant in Brooks has 96 cases linked to it and remains open, but production has been reduced to one shift.

The Lilydale plant is slated to move from Ramsay into the Dufferin North industrial area once construction on a 268,000 square-foot facility is complete.

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