Brazil's JBS Being Sued by Labor Prosecutors Over COVID-19 Outbreak

02:58PM May 26, 2020
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by Ana Mano

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian labor prosecutors are suing meatpacker JBS SA (JBSS3.SA) seeking damages and better work conditions after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a meat plant in Ipumirim, in the southern state of Santa Catarina, according to a prosecutors’ statement on Wednesday.

This is the second time in just over a month labor prosecutors have sought legal action against the meatpacker over its alleged inability to stem outbreaks of the novel coronavirus at meat production sites.

JBS said in a statement sent to Reuters that it had not received formal notice of the lawsuit and added, without elaborating, that it adhered to “strict protocols” against the virus.

In Rio Grande do Sul state, labor prosecutors on April 18 also filed suit after a high number of COVID-19 cases were detected at the company’s Passo Fundo unit. Operations at Passo Fundo, which employs more than 2,600 people and like Ipumirim slaughters chickens, resumed on May 21 after being closed for about a month.

The prosecutors in Santa Catarina alleged JBS is not doing enough to protect its employees at Ipumirim, which was closed after a labor inspection on May 18.

“The company is considered a contagion hot spot for coronavirus not only in Ipumirim, but also in neighboring municipalities, as it employs workers from all over the region,” a statement by labor prosecutors said.

On the day prosecutors closed Ipumirim, some 86 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, or about 5% of the approximately 1,500 employees at the site, the prosecutors’ statement said.

The cases registered at the plant represented then approximately 14% of the contaminations in the west of Santa Catarina, and almost 2% of all cases in the state, the prosecutors said.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Steve Orlofsky