JBS, UFCW create agreement to increase wages, enhance safety measures at Nebraska plants
In an effort to maintain workflow, JBS is teaming up with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to temporarily increase wages for workers, and add enhanced safety measures in their Nebraska meatpacking plants.
That includes both the Grand Island and Omaha locations, which have a total of 3,900 workers combined.
Per the agreement, workers will get a $4 an hour increase in wages starting April 20 lasting through May 30.
"It's not meant to incentivise workers to come to work sick," said Eric Reeder, president of the Local 293 UFCW. "It's meant to show the appreciation of the plant for them working knowing how dangerous it is currently in the plant, and to supplement income with some family members who may have lost some income."
Employees will have access to better PPE, like face shields, masks and gloves. Reeder said plants previously had trouble getting that kind of gear.
JBS will be installing plexiglass shields in parts of the plant where social distancing isn't possible, like along the lines.
Cafeterias and breakrooms will be expanded so employees can better practice social distancing.
Reeder said they understand that people are afraid right now. He said they want to make work a safe place, not a risky environment.
"We have significant amount of calling from people that are nervous to come into work and things like that. I think this will go a long way toward alleviating some of that issue. I think people are going to start seeing that, 'I may be safer going to work than I am going to that family get together,'" Reeder said.
He said this measure isn't a perfect solution, but it's better than people working elbow to elbow.
Reeder said they'd like all plants to consider giving essential workers pay to their employees.
It's unclear at this time how many JBS employees have tested positive for the virus.Teresa Anderson, health director of the Central District Health Department, said the numbers have gone up significantly over the past few weeks.
She said the health department will be going over data with JBS this week so they can know what their positive case numbers say within the facility.