The closure of Eaton Corporation’s facility in Vanport Township last night was done out of an abundance of caution after an employee tested positive for coronavirus, the company says.
Gina Goodwin, Eaton senior manager of corporate communications, told BeaverCountian.com the company has been diligent in its efforts to keep employees healthy.
“In general, our process regarding COVID-19 is that we have put guidelines in place, including lots of social distancing guidelines and health and safety protocols. We had been working at that for weeks,” Goodwin said.
“If an employee comes forward and tells us they think they have been exposed to COVID-19, then we consider them someone who needs to leave the site. Or if they just called in, then we consider them someone who should stay home. We ask them about the contact they’ve had, advise them to monitor their symptoms, and to get tested.
“What you’re seeing at this plant is an employee did get tested and they have been self-quarantined since March 19. We had already asked about who they had contact with and those employees are also now self-quarantined and are awaiting their results.”
The company suspended operations at the facility entirely the night of March 25 after learning the employee tested positive for the virus.
IBEW Beaver Local 201, which represents employees of the plant, had issued a statement to its members on March 20 explaining the union’s specially negotiated agreements with the company.
Among provisions outlined by union president Marc Goosby included employees being offered the ability to stay off from work during the declared state of emergency without losing their jobs, although they would not be paid for that time. Employees were also offered shift flexibility, a moratorium on the issuance of all attendance points and loss of perfect attendance time for employees missing work, and the ability to use vacation to cover off time but with no requirement it be used before taking unpaid time off.
Goosby also told employees the company would not contest unemployment claims made by union members.
“I know it might not be enough for some members but it could be a lot worse,” Goosby wrote in response to several workers who were expressing frustration with the company at the time. The union had unsuccessfully sought hazard pay on behalf of its members.
Eaton had previously shut down its Vanport plant on March 20 in compliance with an order by Governor Tom Wolf to close all non-life-sustaining businesses. The company reopened the plant on March 23 after receiving an exemption classifying it as an essential support provider.
“We (manufacture) circuit breakers and other electrical equipment there, products that are the backbone of reliable electricity for critical infrastructures like hospitals, utilities, and data centers,” Goodwin said.
A decision has not been made by the company as to when the plant may reopen.
“While the plant is closed we’re disinfecting and cleaning the entire facility,” Goodwin said. “When we are ready to reopen we will give employees advance notice and communicate the procedures they will need to follow when they return to work.”