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US TRADE union United Farm Workers has slammed “depraved” behaviour by food-industry bosses who allegedly laid bets on how many of their staff would catch Covid-19.
The allegations form part of a lawsuit filed by Oscar Fernandez against Tyson Foods regarding the death from coronavirus of his father Isidro, who worked at the company’s Waterloo, Iowa pork-processing plant.
Tyson, which employs 139,000 people, is the world’s second-biggest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork.
The suit says that the firm did not take adequate measures to protect workers from infection and pressed them to come into work when they were ill.
But amendments added this month say that named supervisors cancelled safety meetings at the plant and advised other supervisors to suppress news that workers there had tested positive for Covid-19.
And most explosively it states that the plant manager organised a “cash buy-in, winner-takes-all betting pool” open to supervisors and managers in which they could place bets on how many workers they thought would contract the deadly virus.
The allegations highlight the role of meat-packing plants in spreading Covid. In spring such plants were responsible for half of all coronavirus infections in the United States. They have also been the site of outbreaks in Britain and Germany.
Tyson said it was “extremely upset” about the accusations, had suspended the individuals concerned without pay and hired a firm to conduct an independent investigation.
But US Senator Bernie Sanders said: “While the owner of Tyson Foods became $600 million richer during the pandemic, 11,000 of his workers got Covid-19 because they were forced back to work in unsafe and unhealthy plants.”
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