Staff walkout at chicken processor over coronavirus concerns

26-03-2020 | | |
Workers at the Seagoe Moy Park site in Northern Ireland walked out over Coronavirus fears. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
Workers at the Seagoe Moy Park site in Northern Ireland walked out over Coronavirus fears. Photo: Fabian Brockotter

Workers at one of Moy Park’s poultry processing factories in Northern Ireland staged a walkout on Wednesday 25th of March over coronavirus fears. The staff were concerned over working arrangements inside the factory and a lack of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Although the trade union Unite said there had been a mass walk-out of up to 1,000 staff at Moy Park in Seagoe, Portadown, the company insists only 100 staff were involved and returned to work after 15 minutes. A spokeswoman for Moy Park said: “The health and well-being 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 7 areas to enhance social distancing.”

The spokesperson continues: “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. “Our teams are playing a vital role in keeping food production moving and feeding the nation. We are committed to ensuring they are safe and well to keep providing these essential food products,” she said.

Sean McKeever, Unite regional officer confirmed that there had been a mass walkout of workers at Moy Park at Seagoe, Portadown. He said: “Up to one thousand workers have walked out of the Seagoe Moy Park site in Portadown. This follows the failure of the biggest employer in Northern Ireland to provide basic health and safety protections to its workforce. Unite attempted to secure commitments to ensure a minimum 2 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.”

“Workers are refusing to return to work in unsafe conditions. This is an entirely foreseeable outcome of both management greed and total inaction from Stormont. We need to see immediate movement from management to address the workers’ legitimate fears over coronavirus transmission. There cannot be any 2-tier approach to health and safety in workplaces. Food production workers will not be treated as 2nd-class,” said Mr McKeever.

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Chris Mccullough Freelance multi-media journalist