The head of the union that represents workers at an Alberta meat production plan hit by a major COVID-19 outbreak says meat production should be slowed to ensure workers’ safety and to avoid further outbreaks and shutdowns.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, the national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union said “a number” of safety protocols have been implemented at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in High River, Alta., during the coronavirus pandemic and after it temporarily closed on April 20 — but the union wants social distancing measures bolstered further before the plant reopens.

“These facilities have people working shoulder to shoulder,” Paul Meinema said.

“A consistent slow production may be better off than running at full speed and risking further breakouts.”

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Meinema made the comments in an interview on Friday, hours before news broke that UFCW Local 401 launched legal action to stop the planned opening of the Cargill plant on May 4.

One death and more than 900 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the facility amid the pandemic.