Premier Foods has reassured consumers that it has taken extensive precautionary measures against COVID-19 since 40 positive cases were reported at the start of lockdown at the Blue Ribbon bakery in Salt River. Calls are mounting from trade unions for the factory to be closed, amid concern that the numbers of infected staff will rise. Since the first cases came to light, a total of 392 employees have been sent for testing. Subsequently, no new positive results were received in the past 24 hours and 44 negative results were received.
In a statement, Premier Foods said all employees pass through an extensive screening process carried out by ‘professional’ nursing staff before gaining access to the site. This has contributed to no on-site infections so far. The company claimed all employees walk through a sanitizing mist tunnel, before entering the plant, have access to sanitisers throughout the site, wear masks and adhere to social distancing. The plant is also shut down every seven days for a deep cleaning and sanitation process. The business said this has contributed to some short supply of bread in recent weeks.
A continuous cleaning process takes place on the site throughout the shift to ensure all surfaces are sanitised. The Department Of Health and Department of Labour has inspected the plant and found Premier to be fully compliant with the required protocols for a manufacturing site.r.
However, the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) persisted the manufacturer should close down. Speaking to VOC News, FAWU provincial secretary, Meshack Ntechane said they are embarking on numerous steps going forward to ensure that their members are protected at all costs.
“The first point of call that we will try and establish is that the department of health is brought on board as they are the final custodians of Covid-19 and regulations that come with it, following that we would like to venture into the legal space because this employer is notorious in their behaviour,” said Ntechane.
Ntechane continued and said the union “battled to understand” at what point the plant would shut down out of safety for their employees.
After conducting a site visit on Tuesday afternoon, the Salt River Community Action Network (SR CAN) is satisfied that the Blue Ribbon factory and bakery does not need to close down. According to the networks’ Anwar Omar, the site was disinfected after staff members recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Following the visit with a medical expert, SR CAN said swift safety precautions were put in place at the facility. SR CAN has since thanked Blue Ribbon for its transparency and engagement and conceded that there are sufficient preventative measures in place.
However, the network said the factory has regular inspections by the Department of Labour and Health and are found to be in full compliance of all regulations stipulated by the National Institution for Communicable Diseases.