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JBS close two plants after ‘enforcing work while sick culture’ that saw employees die of COVID-19

One of the world’s largest meat-processing companies was forced to shutter two of its US plants this week after four of its workers died from coronavirus and more than 100 tested positive – but the pandemic isn’t the only entanglement the company’s facing.

Last week, JBS – owned by Brazilian billionaire brothers Wesley and Joesley Batista – announced plans to close a plant in Greeley, Colorado, after four of its workers died of coronavirus, including long-term employee, 78-year-old Saul Sanchez. 

A subsequent investigation carried out by the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment attributed the company’s ‘work while sick culture’ as the catalyst behind the meat-packing plant becoming a COVID-19 hotspot.

County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wallace wrote to the plant on April 2 – five days before the first reported death among its employees – warning that some of the plant’s laborers felt forced to keep up attendance even when they felt ill.

‘These concerns expressed to clinicians included a perception by employees of a ‘work while sick’ culture that included managers and supervisors coming to work while sick,’ Wallace wrote in the letter, as first reported by KDVR.

Joesley Batista

The Brazilian billionaire brother owners of JBS, (left to right) Wesley and Joesley Batista, have now been linked to a high-level government corruption scheme that has stunned the South American country

JBS was forced to shutter some of its US plants this week after more than 100 of its workers tested positive for coronavirus and four died (Pictured: the now close Greeley, CO, plant)

JBS was forced to shutter some of its US plants this week after more than 100 of its workers tested positive for coronavirus and four died (Pictured: the now close Greeley, CO, plant)

In his April 2 letter, Wallace ordered the company to take employee’s temperatures as they arrived on site, implement social distancing protocols, and direct anyone exhibiting symptoms to self-isolate at home.

‘If I find evidence of continued violations,’ Wallace wrote. ‘I will seek assistance from the District Attorney to consider criminal actions against you and your staff and/or the Weld County attorney to seek injunctive relief against your company.’

JBS eventually idled operations at the beef processing plant on April 15, but not before dozens more of its 4,500 workers became infected with the virus and at least four died.

A JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, was also forced to close up shop last month after dozens of workers came down with flu-like symptoms, but the company announced plans to reopen the plant on Monday.

The company has since denied obligating or encouraging workers to show up while exhibiting symptoms.

‘No one is forced to come to work and no one is punished for being absent for health reasons. If someone is sick or lives with someone who is sick, we send them home,; spokesperson Nikki Richardson told The Daily Beast. ‘The health and safety of our team members is our number one priority.’

Richardson further noted that the federal government has sought to keep food supply chains running amid the pandemic, citing them to be essential businesses. 

Last week, JBS - which sells beef and chicken under its Pilgrim Pride and Swift Labels - announced plans to close a plant in Greeley, Colorado, after four of its workers died of coronavirus, including long-term employee, 78-year-old Saul Sanchez (shown in photograph)

Last week, JBS – which sells beef and chicken under its Pilgrim Pride and Swift Labels – announced plans to close a plant in Greeley, Colorado, after four of its workers died of coronavirus, including long-term employee, 78-year-old Saul Sanchez (shown in photograph)

'When I called to let them know that he was sick, and to let the rest of the employees know he was positive, I got no response,' his daughter Beatriz Rangel said, adding that Sanchez was willing to work at the plant even during the outbreak because he trusted his employer

‘When I called to let them know that he was sick, and to let the rest of the employees know he was positive, I got no response,’ his daughter Beatriz Rangel said, adding that Sanchez was willing to work at the plant even during the outbreak because he trusted his employer

In addition to the JBS’ coronavirus woes, its’ parent company, J&F Investments, has now reportedly fallen subject to a US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into claims of alleged bribery.

In October, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez urged the federal government to investigate the beef conglomerate and its alleged dealings with the Venezuelan government after the company established a business relationship with the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro – who the US has levied sanctions against.

Those calls were renewed last week by Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, who has accused JBS – which slaughters over 13 million animals a day and made profits of $51 billion last year- of price-gauging US cattle producers amid the coronavirus epidemic.

An investigation carried out by the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment found that a 'work while sick culture' may spurred the meat-packing plant into becoming a COVID-19 hotspot (pictured: Protestant Vampire Gown of President Michel Temer Protests in front of the Office of the Presidency of the Republic on August 2, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil)

An investigation carried out by the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment found that a ‘work while sick culture’ may spurred the meat-packing plant into becoming a COVID-19 hotspot (pictured: Protestant Vampire Gown of President Michel Temer Protests in front of the Office of the Presidency of the Republic on August 2, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil)

A JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, was also forced to close up shop last month after dozens of workers came down with flu-like symptoms, but the company announced plans to reopen the plant on Monday

A JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, was also forced to close up shop last month after dozens of workers came down with flu-like symptoms, but the company announced plans to reopen the plant on Monday

The Batista brother’s legal problems have been prevalent at home too. Both Joseley and Welsey, who are known to live lavishly, both spent six months in a Brazillian jail after being charged with insider trading.

They admitted to bribing nearly 2,000 elected officials in Brazil in order to secure government funding to fuel their company’s US expansion a few years ago, and were issued more than $3.2 billion in fines in 2017, the highest in the country’s history.

The following year, the brothers sold a 7,000-square-foot apartment they owned in the Baccarat hotel for $11 million, allegedly to help pay off the aforementioned fines and subsequent legal costs.

And now, a Brazilian jurist is working to recoup billions of dollars in public funds the Batista brothers obtained through ‘illicit’ means. 

The legal expert recently wrote to New York’s Attorney General, urging them to launch an investigation into the alleged activity as JBS touts the idea of going public on the New York Stock Exchange, billing them to be an ‘imminent threat’.

The Batista brother's successive woes have led to calls for New York General Attorney General Letitia James to investigate their company as an 'imminent threat' before it begins publicly trading on Wall Street

The Batista brother’s successive woes have led to calls for New York General Attorney General Letitia James to investigate their company as an ‘imminent threat’ before it begins publicly trading on Wall Street

The Batista brother's legal problems have been prevalent at home too. Both Joseley and Welsey, who are known to live lavishly, both spent six months in a Brazil jail after being charged with insider trading (pictured:  Joesley Batista disembarks from a Brazilian Federal Police airplane at Brasilia's International Airport on September 11, 2017)

The Batista brother’s legal problems have been prevalent at home too. Both Joseley and Welsey, who are known to live lavishly, both spent six months in a Brazil jail after being charged with insider trading (pictured:  Joesley Batista disembarks from a Brazilian Federal Police airplane at Brasilia’s International Airport on September 11, 2017)

They admitted to bribing nearly 2,000 elected officials in Brazil in order to secure government funding to fuel their company’s US expansion a few years ago, and were issued more than $3.2 billion in fines in 2017, the highest in the country’s history

They admitted to bribing nearly 2,000 elected officials in Brazil in order to secure government funding to fuel their company’s US expansion a few years ago, and were issued more than $3.2 billion in fines in 2017, the highest in the country’s history

‘We write to bring to the attention … these troubling issues because they potentially pose an imminent threat to New York residents, investors and financial institutions,” said a Dec. 20, 2019 letter to New York Attorney General Letitia James, the NY Post reported.

‘This proposed transaction is effectively an attempt by the Batistas to raise funds to pay their multi-billion dollar fines and to legitimize themselves and their companies through a US-sanctioned IPO,’ said lawyers for Mauricio Mota, a Brazilian law professor.

The Attorney General’s office has not yet commented on the claims, but a spokesperson for JBS USA told the outlet that the company has ‘not been informed of any such request’.

‘[JBS] has not been accused of any wrongdoing,’ said Nikki Richardson. ‘JBS has fully cooperated with all the relevant authorities in the United States regarding events that took place in Brazil nearly three years ago. All investigations to date have focused on events in Brazil, and the company will continue to cooperate and respond to any subsequent inquiries.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk