AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several employees of the Austin-based Via 313 pizza company say four staff members were suspended after 46 workers signed a petition requesting increased COVID-19 safety and paid sick time.

The employees say they’ll protest what they see as unfair treatment and unsafe working conditions on Saturday.

In a statement on Friday, the group wrote in part:

“This follows a history of COVID-19 mismanagement by the Via 313 company, most recently during the omicron surge. At least 15 Via 313 employees have contracted COVID-19 in the last two weeks. Via 313 management failed to properly notify the employees who were in close contact with the positive cases. This caused many employees who were potentially infected to show up to work and spread the virus further.”

The protesters gathered at the 3016 Guadalupe St. location in central Austin.

Via 313 said in a statement Saturday that since March 2020 it has followed the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal/state mandates and other protocols. Additionally, it says that while certain employee “allegations” are being taken seriously, no employees have been suspended or terminated for signing a petition submitted to the company.

Instead, Via 313 says the employees who were suspended were reportedly creating a “hostile work environment,” pending an investigation into the claims.

While acknowledging that there is a “learning curve” with best practices during a pandemic, Via 313 said in part:

“We at Via 313 Pizzeria care deeply about our employees. Their health and safety is top priority… Along with our peers in the hospitality industry, we continually evaluate efforts needed to provide a safe environment. We have a team dedicated to COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of not only our team but our customers. As we strive to have an open and transparent culture in our company, we welcome suggestions and recommendations made by our employees… We are not only reviewing our safety protocols daily but are also working with management to review our paid sick leave policy and other allowances that further support and protect our employees.”

Via 313