Workers at the Moy Park plant in Portadown, Northern Ireland, staged a walkout because of what union workers viewed as a lack of measures to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Unite regional officer Sean McKeever said the union attempted to secure commitments to ensure a minimum two-meter social distancing between workers, as well as other measures to enable infection control, but those proposals were dismissed.
However, a spokesperson for Moy Park said employee health and well-being was the company’s “most important consideration,” and that it put “new, robust measures in place to keep them safe.”
Moy Park seeking temporary workers
The walkout occurred just days after the company announced it was looking to fill hundreds of temporary jobs at its sites across Northern Ireland and Great Britain as demand for food amid the COVID-19 pandemic increased.
Kirsty Wilkins, Moy Park human resources and performance director, told the Portadown Times: “This increase in grocery retail comes at a time when there has been a fall in demand across our sister sectors of hospitality and tourism as people’s socializing and travel plans are curtailed, We hope the pressure being faced across these industries is short-term, and in the meantime, we are keen to help anyone looking for a job through these new opportunities.”
Moy Park, according to the Poultry International Top Companies rankings, is the second largest poultry company in the United Kingdom and supplies 30% of the total U.K. poultry market. It is also the eighth largest in Europe, having slaughtered 312 million broilers in 2019.
The company was acquired by Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest poultry company in the United States, in 2017. It was previously owned by JBS, and before that, Marfrig Global Foods.