UK meat processor Moy Park has seen workers at one of its plants stage a walkout over Covid-19 safety fears.

The Northern Ireland-based company, owned by US poultry giant Pilgrim’s Pride, said 100 workers downed tools to stage a 15-minute walkout at its Seagoe, Portadown, plant yesterday (25 March), although trade union Unite claimed the figure was higher.

The union said the protest concerned what workers saw as a lack of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Unite regional organiser Sean McKeever said the walkout “follows the failure of the biggest employer in Northern Ireland to provide basic health and safety protections to its workforce”.
He added: “Unite attempted to secure commitments to ensure a minimum two metre social distancing between workers and other measures to enable infection control in the face of the coronavirus threat but our proposals were dismissed by management.”
McKeever called on Moy Park management to address the workers’ fears.

“Food production workers will not be treated as second-class,” he said.

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By GlobalData

In a statement sent to just-food. a spokesperson for Moy Park said: “The health and wellbeing of our team is our most important consideration and we have put new, robust measures in place to keep them safe.

“We have thoroughly reviewed our sites and continue to take on board feedback from our team members. We had already identified seven areas to enhance social distancing. These measures include staggering breaks, re-spacing workstations and communal areas, as well as installing screens on appropriate production lines. 

“We also continue to make provisions for those who can work from home to do so using remote technology as well as increased cleaning and the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). We are continually reviewing the situation and taking additional steps where necessary.”

Last week, Moy Park said it was looking to bring in hundreds of temporary employees following a marked increase in grocery retail demand for poultry produce due to Covid-19.