- Tyson Foods announced on Monday tech industry veteran Dean Banks will become the company’s new CEO in October. He will be tasked with leading the meat industry giant out of the chaos caused by the pandemic.
- “Without a doubt, our third quarter was one of the most volatile and uncertain periods I’ve seen during my 40-year career in the industry,” CEO Noel White said in a call with investors.
- There have been at least 10,261 reported COVID-19 cases among Tyson meat processing workers, and at least 24 have died.
- “Currently less than 1% of Tyson Foods’ U.S. workforce of over 120,000 team members has active COVID-19,” White said.
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Tyson Foods tapped a new CEO, after the coronavirus pandemic sparked one of the most “volatile and uncertain” periods the company has ever seen.
On Monday, Tyson announced that Dean Banks would become the company’s chief executive in October. Banks, a tech industry veteran, will be tasked with leading Tyson out of one of the most chaotic times in the meat giant’s history.
On Monday, Tyson reported $US527 million profit in the most recent quarter, beating expectations. Tyson said it expects the pandemic to continue to negatively impact the volume of meat production and raise operating costs into 2021.
The company spent $US340 million in COVID-related costs in the most recent quarter, $US114 million of which went towards “thank you” bonuses for workers. Other costs included COVID-19 testing and personal protective gear for workers.
“Without a doubt, our third quarter was one of the most volatile and uncertain periods I’ve seen during my 40-year career in the industry,” CEO Noel White said in a call with investors on Monday.
As the pandemic swept the US, meat processing companies struggled to keep plants open as many workers caught the coronavirus and some stayed home from work to avoid becoming ill. According to White, roughly a third of Tyson’s US workforce – 40,000 people – have been tested for the virus.
“Currently less than 1% of Tyson Foods’ U.S. workforce of over 120,000 team members has active COVID-19,” White said.
While less than 1,200 Tyson workers have COVID-19 at this moment in time, thousands more have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in recent months.
The Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) identified at least 10,261 reported COVID-19 cases among Tyson meat processing workers from mid-April to mid-July. As of early June, at least 24 Tyson workers had died, according to Business Insider analysis.
According to FERN, more Tyson workers have tested positive for COVID-19 than employees at any other company in the industry. FERN found that there have been at least 39,056 COVID-19 cases among meatpacking workers across the industry. At least 174 have died.
Tyson says safety has been a top priority
White said that protecting workers has been the top priority throughout the pandemic. Tyson has rolled out new safety measures, including temperatures scanners, installing workstation dividers, and hiring 500 social distance monitors.
Last week, Tyson announced it was hiring nearly 200 nurses and administrative employees as it launches a new monitoring program. The company is also hiring a new chief medical officer position and has more than 400 people currently on its health services team.
“The new data-driven program was designed with the help of outside medical experts and involves weekly testing of a sampling of team members to monitor for the presence of the virus,” White said.
However, some critics say Tyson and other meat industry giants have not done enough to protect workers.
“A cohort of advocacy groups – including the Rural Community Workers Alliance and Forward Latino – have sued both Tyson and JBS for allegedly racially discriminating against their own employees in their response to the coronavirus epidemic,” reports Business Insider’s Áine Cain.
The complaint alleges that JBS and Tyson failed to protect workers by following measures recommended by the Centres for Disease Control. According to the CDC, 87% of COVID-19 cases in the meatpacking industry occured among workers who are racial and ethnic minorities.
In May, the family of Pwar Gay, who worked as a meat cutter at a Amarillo, Texas plant, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tyson. Gay died after being hospitalized due to a workplace fall and COVID-19 symptoms.
The families of three workers at a Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa sued the company in June, saying in a complaint that Tyson failed to immediately close the plant when urged to do so by local law enforcement and health officials. According to the complaint,Tyson failed to implement necessary safety measures.
Tyson representative Gary Mickelson declined to comment on any of the specific lawsuits, but noted that the company has rolled out a variety of initiatives to keep workers safe across the US, as well as efforts specific to Waterloo, Iowa and Amarillo, Texas.
“We’re saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathise with their families,” Mickelson said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our workers and we’ve implemented a host of protective measures at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19.”