Workers at a 2 Sisters Food Group site in Birmingham are set to demonstrate outside local Tesco and Somerfield stores this afternoon (4 September) as a racism row threatens to engulf the UK poultry supplier.

Sixty workers at the 2 Sisters plant in Smethwick were suspended on Wednesday after taking unofficial action to support the facility's shop steward. The steward had been earlier suspended for supporting a colleague who was allegedly racially abused by a plant security guard.

Joe Clarke, regional organiser for the Unite union, said 2 Sisters management had refused to meet union organisers to resolve the situation and questioned the wisdom of the company's actions.

"The company is losing production and the workers are on paid suspension. The workers currently being suspended are the most skilled workers in the plant. It isn't a job you can actually learn overnight," Clarke told just-food.

Clarke said the suspended employees are all of Asian origin and have continued to picket the facility this morning. Later today, the workers plan to take the demonstration to local retail outlets in Handsworth and Aston, two Birmingham communities with a significant Asian population.

A 2 Sisters spokesman insisted it remains "business as usual" at the Smethwick site and insisted the workers on the picket lines represented a "small minority" of employees.

The spokesman said the plant's shop steward was suspended for getting involved in a "fracas" with the security guard and the company is in the process of investigating all the allegations.

2 Sisters is willing to meet union representatives to discuss the situation, the spokesman claimed. "I would like to think we have a good relationship with the union. They are robust but we have good dialogue. We would like to think we can resolve this in a mature manner."