WEST LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa turkey plant that is the site of a coronavirus outbreak said Friday that hundreds of employees will be furloughed this fall due to the nation’s economic struggles.
West Liberty Foods told The Associated Press that roughly one-third of its 994 employees will be temporarily laid off for months, likely from from November through February.
The company confirmed Friday that 136 employees have tested positive for coronavirus, after mass testing at the West Liberty plant last week.
The company says restaurant closures have dramatically reduced demand for many of its products, resulting in excess supply. As a result, growers affiliated with the plant will stop placing baby turkeys for 18 weeks beginning in late June.
That means the plant won’t have turkeys to process for about four months beginning in November. During that time, the plant will work through millions of pounds in excess turkey breast that’s in cold storage.
Employees who eviscerate, cut up and pack raw turkeys will be furloughed. They will be eligible for unemployment benefits and West Liberty Foods will pay them an additional 25% supplement. The employees will also keep their health insurance during the layoff.
West Liberty Foods vice president Dan Waters called it a tough but necessary decision.