Tyson offers bonuses to thank its workers

Tyson Foods Inc. is paying $60 million in "thank you" bonuses to front line workers and truckers as covid-19 continues to spread.

U.S. meatpackers have felt pressure lately to keep their plants running to ensure enough food is on store shelves and meat cases, as other industries struggle to stay open. Many have adjusted production to fill more retail orders as restaurants close their doors and switch to takeout operations.

For their support during the crisis, Tyson Foods on Wednesday said it will give 116,000 workers a one-time bonus of $500 each. Spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an email that the bonuses will be for full- and part-time production and maintenance workers, truck drivers and support personnel.

"We're proud of how our team members have stepped up," Chief Executive Officer Noel White said in a news release. "[They] are leading the charge to continue providing food to the nation. The bonuses are another way we can say 'thank you' for their efforts."

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Workers will begin to see the bonuses in July, according to the Springdale-based company. Cargill, ConAgra and other meat and food packers have also offered temporary pay raises or bonuses. Many are taking precautionary measures such as checking workers' temperatures before they enter the plants.

Despite increased sanitation and protective face masks for workers, the virus is finding a way into America's processing plants. Positive covid-19 cases have been found at facilities owned by Sanderson Farms, Smithfield Foods, Purdue Farms even Tyson, who has had a "limited number of team members test positive."

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence of the coronavirus being transmissible through food or food packaging. "We do not believe there is a need to conduct environmental testing in food settings for the virus," the agency said on its website. It does recommend cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.

Tyson has relaxed some rules for workers in the plants such as eliminating penalties for missing work because of illness. The company is also waiving copays, co-insurances and deductibles for coronavirus-related doctor visits, as well as copays for telemedicine and refill limits for 30-day prescriptions. Tyson does not offer paid sick time, but employees can receive short-term disability if they are sick from covid-19 or exhibiting symptoms.

Business on 04/01/2020