SAO PAULO (Reuters) – A Brazilian court has ordered JBS SA <JBSS3.SA> to keep 1.5 meters (4.92 ft) of distance between workers at its chicken processing plant in the town of Ipumirim, according to a statement from the state labor prosecutor’s office on Thursday.
The labor prosecutor’s office in the southern state of Santa Catarina said the court also stipulated in an injunction that JBS should send workers suspected of having the new coronavirus on paid leave, even if they are asymptomatic, for a minimum of 14 days.
Operations at that JBS plant, which was ordered shut on May 18 by labor auditors, can only resume if the company complies with the measures, the statement said, citing the terms of the ruling.
“We took action to ensure that when the work returns at the plant, the company is obliged to meet these requirements,” one of the prosecutors involved in the case told Reuters.
JBS said that its workers’ health is its top priority and that it had adopted strict protocols to protect them from the virus, in line with government directives. It declined to comment on the ongoing legal case regarding its plant.
Labor auditors have powers to close the plant and apply fines, and prosecutors have a mandate to ask the court to order the company to comply with certain obligations or potentially face further penalties.
According to the labor auditors responsible for the inspection that resulted in the closing of the plant, 86 coronavirus cases had been confirmed at the JBS plant, representing almost 5% of the estimated 1,500 workers there.
The plant processes some 135,000 chickens per day, with most of the output destined to export markets, according company disclosures and labor auditors.
(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Aurora Ellis)