Workers at NI factory stage mass walk out over safety conditions, says union

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Workers at an NI chicken factory staged a mass walk out over safety conditions due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Union officials claimed “up to 1000” workers walked ut at the Moy Park site at Seagoe in Portadown.

However, the company said that it was about 100 workers who returned to work after about 15 minutes.

Moy Park is one of the UK’s top 15 food companies, Northern Ireland’s largest private sector business and one of Europe’s leading poultry producers.

Other 3rd Party

Officials from trade union Unite said proposals to secure health and safety protections had been rejected by bosses and this led to a spontaneous walk out by workers.

Sean McKeever, Unite Regional Officer confirmed that there had been a mass walkout of workers at Moy Park at Seagoe, Portadown.

However the rejected claims that only 150 walked out.

He did agree that the workers had returned to the factory floor and negotiations with management are ongoing.

He said that if safety measures that the staff want are not put in place then members would relook at what action they could take.

He said: “Up to one thousand workers 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 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.

Workers were 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 two-tier approach to health and safety in workplaces. Food production workers will not be treated as second-class”, Mr McKeever said.

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 7 areas to enhance social distancing.

“These measures include staggering breaks, respacing 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.”