More than 180 workers at a Toronto bakery contracted COVID-19, but the outbreak occurred in May and has only been made public now.
The outbreak took place at FGF Brands, an industrial bakery from May 18, and was lifted by Toronto Public Health on June 24.
When the health agency first declared the outbreak, in early June after conducting two waves of mass testing for all the team members, a total of 184 cases were confirmed out of a workforce of 2,000 people.
“These cases were largely confined to two facilities in Ontario out of a total of seven facilities that FGF owns and operates. We have NOT had any new cases since then,” Lori Procher, SVP Talent and Development of FGF Brands told Daily Hive in a written statement on Monday.
Procher added that the company took an “aggressive action” beginning at the end of January with the provision masks and gloves for all workers followed by physical distancing in early March.
The bakery’s Pandemic Response Team then developed more measures which include: increasing frequency of sanitizing common areas; installing plexiglass at tables in lunchrooms; hiring four nurses to assist with temperature checks and screening; adding five personal emergency leave days; and reducing non-essential production to have fewer workers on site.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult time for everyone, and we are proud of each and every one of our Team Members who have come together to ensure that we did our small part in helping keep the Canadian food supply chain moving,” Procher said.
But, Wayne Gates an NDP critic for Workplace Health and Safety said that because the workers did not have access to paid sick days, it contributed to the outbreak.
“Today we learned that many workers became sick with COVID-19 and one worker tragically lost their life at FGF Brands, an industrial bakery in Toronto. They were low-wage, temporary workers with no access to paid sick days when the outbreak began. They came to work when they were feeling sick because they would not be paid if they stayed home,” the statement reads.
Gates added that after the outbreak, the workers were given “just a couple of paid sick days” but that was “too little and too late.”
Lack of access to paid sick time left these workers vulnerable to COVID-19, and led to a massive outbreak at this plant, and the loss of a life.”
She noted that all workers, including temporary workers, must be able to take time off when they become ill without worrying about lost wages or job security.