As the COVID-19 pandemic peaks in the U.S., Perdue Farms said it remains focused on the health and safety of everyone involved in its supply chain as well as ensuring the continuity of the supply chain.
“As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, we’ve enacted numerous proactive measures to protect our associates during this uncharted time,” Perdue Farms chief executive officer Randy Day said. “For example, at our plants, we are practicing social distancing not only in common areas, such as breakrooms and cafeterias, but also on the production lines, where possible. Where social distancing isn’t possible, we are rolling out temporary installations of dividers between our associates on production lines.”
The design of the partitions allows them to be easily customized and installed in many different applications throughout production facilities where needed. The stainless elements are welded versus bolted to minimize potential pathogen harborage points. Made using either Plexiglass or stretched trash bags, the dividers will be cleaned or replaced, respectively, between every shift.
“We’re extremely proud of our engineering, maintenance and operations teams, who developed these dividers in a matter of days to protect our associates on the front lines. We’ve installed hundreds so far at four different production facilities and are working hard to have them set up in all facilities in the coming weeks,” Day said.
Additional preventative measures include temperature checking at all production facilities as well as rolling out a disposable mask program, which will be available at all production facilities by the end of this week, Day relayed.
“Our primary focus is the health of our people. As a 100-year-old company, we have always known our associates are frontline heroes in America’s food supply chain. As they remain dedicated to their essential roles to help keep our nation fed, we remain committed to supporting and protecting them,” he added.
Utilizing infrared, non-contact temperature devices, everyone entering a production facility will have their temperature taken each day by trained testers. Anyone with a temperature at or above applicable health department guidelines will be directed to that facility’s on-site Wellness Center for further screening and instruction.
“We are aware that this global situation is creating stress for many of our associates and their families beyond the immediate health concerns. That is why, in addition to incremental safety precautions in our facilities, we have taken steps to increase compensation for our associates and create flexibilities in our leave policies,” Perdue Farms said.
For example, because the pandemic has caused many employees to cancel vacation or personal time off (PTO), the company has temporarily removed the PTO accrual maximum for all associates until June 1, 2020, allowing them to continue accruing PTO weekly/biweekly past the maximum amount. They will have until June 1, 2021, to utilize the days over their PTO maximum, the company explained.
“As we navigate the challenges posed by this unprecedented pandemic, we will continue to seek additional opportunities to protect and support our associates who are continuing to produce safe, high-quality food for our country,” Day said.
The latest efforts are in addition to measures implemented in early March to protect and support associates, including:
- Proactively increasing stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols;
- Encouraging associates to stay home if they are not feeling well or think they might have been exposed to the virus, and extending the hours of many of the on-site Wellness Centers for the foreseeable future, which are available to all associates and their families free of charge;
- Making existing PTO policies even more flexible during this time to be responsive and provide added relief;
- Waiving the five-day waiting period for short-term disability for any associate who contracts COVID-19 so that he or she can receive immediate benefits;
- Providing all hourly associates with a $1-per-hour pay raise and all piece rate associates (such as Perdue truck drivers) with a $40-per-week pay increase. These temporary increases will be in effect March 23 to May 10, 2020;
- Fully funding the company’s annual profit-sharing Associate Bonus Program and paying it to eligible associates two months early. Normally, associates must be employed with the company on the first day of its fiscal year (on or around April 1, 2019) to be eligible for this bonus, but the criterion has been adjusted to include applicable associates hired prior to Feb. 1, 2020, and
- Providing production associates with chicken products to take home for themselves and their families.
The company said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service also continues to inspect all Perdue Farms products, which are made with the highest standards of safety and quality, as well as its production facilities, which are fully sanitized every 24 hours, at a minimum.