An employee at Wabtec has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. That employee has reportedly been home sick since the last week in March.
U.E. representatives said Wabtec underwent a “deep cleaning” the following day as part of their COVID-19 Safety Plan.
Upon receiving confirmation of the employee’s diagnosis, Wabtec sent home second shift employees who were working in the same building.
Those employees were instructed to not return to work until Monday and to report if they start to have any symptoms of the virus.
In a statement late Wednesday, U.E. 506 Business Agent, Mike Ferritto said, “We are [working] through how to approach the next step. Anyone who is directed to take [time] off should file for unemployment regardless of earnings this week.”
The situation has many workers frustrated at the fortune 500 company.
Inside Wabtec, they are a “community within a community.”
The union president said he hopes Governor Tom Wolf’s administration and Wabtec will take a look at this incident and reevaluate whether or not they need their full staff back.
“I think we’ve been given a warning and if it continues, I have a feeling that we’re going to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” said Scott Slawson, President, U.E. Local 506.
Slawson added that as of right now, there are too many employees working.
“We build the most quality locomotive on the planet. I would hope we don’t need 1,500 people to keep our locomotives running,” said Slawson.
Slawson said he believes Wabtec should be contacted by the governors office and told to operate with a minimal workforce.
State Representative Ryan Bizzarro also weighed in on the positive COVID-19 case at Wabtec. He believes the company is acting irresponsibly by having their workforce back during the pandemic.
“We have a fragile hospital system here in Erie County. We’re dealing with satellite hospitals, quite frankly. Larger cities are more prepared to deal with the outbreaks and they are currently struggling. Imagine what this could do to Erie County and the hospital system, it could decimate it,” said Ryan Bizzarro, State Representative.
Bizzarro and County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper have both gone on the record demanding Governor Wolf reconsider Wabtec’s full waiver.
Bizzarro said the governor will regret his decision.
“Any operation they can afford to shutdown, they should shut it down. People’s lives are far more important than profits,” said Bizzarro.
“As human beings, we have an obligation to protect each other and I don’t think that is being carried out right now,” said Slawson.
We did reach out to Wabtec for a comment they said, in part, “Ensuring a safe environment for our employees remains, first and foremost, the company’s top priority. As previously communicated, we will continue to take significant precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our team.”