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21 May 2020

Isis Almeida, Bloomberg Green

Meat companies get pressure from investors to improve working conditions

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After tackling issues including the use of antibiotics, animal welfare and climate change, investors are turning their attention to plants that have become virus hotspots. Firms that manage $2.3 trillion in assets want meatpackers to adopt recommendations they say will keep workers safe and mitigate reputational and financial risks... More than 10,000 American meat workers have been infected with the virus, and at least 30 have died... The pandemic has highlighted worker conditions at slaughterhouses, where cold, damp factories and crowded workstations make infectious diseases particularly hard to control. The jobs are also low-paying and provide few benefits, further underscoring how labor inequality is one of the most significant rifts brought to the fore by Covid-19... Investors are also asking for increased worker safeguards, requesting companies to provide more protective gear, including “the most effective respirators available.”

... Tyson said in a written response that the health and safety of its team members is its top priority and the reason it has put in place additional safeguards, protocols and guidelines... JBS and its Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. chicken unit said they routinely and transparently engage with investors and have implemented similar measures to keep workers safe in the pandemic... Sanderson Farms said it hasn’t received investor pressure regarding worker safety during the pandemic. The company has laid out the steps it’s taking in a call with investors and added that it runs the slowest line speeds in the industry.