Tyson Shuts Down Iowa Pork Plant After Refrigeration Malfunction

Tyson Foods Inc. said it temporarily shut down its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, following a refrigeration failure.

The company said Wednesday in a statement that it’s too early to determine a timeline for its reopening but it will likely be down for a few days after shutting because of a “mechanical malfunction in the refrigeration system Tuesday evening.” No one was hurt and the company will guarantee pay for full-time active employees, Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, said in the statement.

“This has been a challenging year, and we want to ensure our team members are safe,” he said.

Tyson earlier on Wednesday said it fired seven managers at another Iowa pork plant, in Waterloo. The company completed an investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that looked into allegations that managers were making wagers on how many workers would catch the virus.

READ MORE: Tyson Foods Terminates 7 Employees After Waterloo Investigation

“The behaviors exhibited by these individuals do not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth,” Tyson Chief Executive Officer Dean Banks said in a statement. “Now that the investigation has concluded, we are taking action based on the findings.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said 483,000 hogs were slaughtered Wednesday, down from 497,000 on Tuesday. The Columbus Junction plant has estimated capacity of 10,000 head per day, according to Steve Meyer, an economist at consultant Kerns & Associates.

The site was one of the first American meat plants to shut down earlier this year as the Covid-19 virus spread among food workers. The plant closed April 6 before resuming operations two weeks later.

Many meat plants continue to struggle with employee absenteeism as positive virus cases rise in much of the U.S. and some workers with long-term health conditions remain on leave.

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