Workers at two Halton Region food processing plants now have some protection against the COVID-19 virus after vaccination clinics were held in the workplace.
“It is great to see employers being proactive and the response of workers in these plants just shows how much people just want to get their shots,” said Unifor President Jerry Dias.
“We just need more employers to work with local public health units and get more jabs in arms. These are the essential workers who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic and we need to prioritize them now.”
Halton Public Health worked with BFG TreeHouse and Saputo plants in Georgetown, Ont. to arrange for the vaccine clinics on April 23 and April 28 respectively, according to Vito Beato, the First Vice-President of Unifor Local 1285.
Roughly 85% of each plant’s membership – more than 200 at Saputo and nearly 300 at BFG – received the Moderna vaccine, he said.
“It’s huge,” said Beato. “A lot of the members took advantage of the vaccinations being onsite. They are happy, relieved and some members were waving their hands and arms in the air and doing a little dance after they received the shot. There was a lot of positivity.”
The vaccine was administered on a voluntary basis.
There are preliminary plans for the clinics to return to give staff their second doses, but no dates have yet been determined.
“When I think back to when this pandemic started last year, these are the workers that still continued to work,” he said.
“They went to work and provided milk, crackers and baked goods for our families, because they were deemed essential and had to go to work. The fear that they had initially because we did not know what this pandemic was all about. It is with great respect to these members as they were not the fortunate ones who could work from home.”
During COVID-19, Unifor continues to demand priority vaccination access for essential workers, paid time for vaccines and paid sick days.
Having the vaccine be available improves quality of life for not only manufacturing workers, but their families, said Beato, who believes more work needs to be done to bring vaccination clinics to other manufacturing workplaces, especially in Peel Region, a known hotspot.
“There are mobile vaccination clinics, but criteria is specific,” he said. “(Manufacturing plants) are part of Phase Two, but we want to get it sooner.”