Belfast Telegraph

Moy Park sell-off 'worrying' with Brexit around corner

By John Mulgrew

The sell-off of Northern Ireland poultry giant Moy Park - one of the region's largest employers - is "worrying" with Britain's imminent exit from the European Union, experts have warned.

The Craigavon business, which employs 6,300 staff in Northern Ireland alone, is being sold by Brazilian-based JBS, just two years after it bought the business for $1.5bn (£945m).

Moy Park, now one of the UK’s top 10 food firms, has a workforce of 12,000 across Europe.

Its chief executive, Janet McCollum, said it is a “successful and growing food business with a solid financial standing”.

“I have no doubt that our success is due to the great strengths of this business — our exceptional people, innovation and performance,” she said.

But an economist and a trade unionist say there are concerns over what the sale could mean for workers, especially in light of ongoing Brexit talks.

Unite regional officer Sean McKeever said it “casts a shadow over its future at a time when it already faces extensive uncertainties as a result of Brexit”.

“We are seeking assurances that any new owner will demonstrate their long-term commitment to our three thousand members in the company,” he said.

“We want to see a meaningful investment plan and confirmation that they will continue to engage with Unite as the representative body for more than half the workforce.”

Economist John Simpson said the sale as “either one business or possibly with some sub-division would be a worrying development, especially with the impact of Brexit on the international trade in grains (for animal feed) now facing uncertainty in trading conditions”.

“The Economy Minister, if or when we have one, should organise a professional investigation, get out to meet the principals, and arrange for careful monitoring to be carried out by Invest NI. This is too important for NI to take a passive stance.” Moy Park recorded pre-tax profits of £35.7m in 2015.

Ms McCollum said: “I also know that this will ensure our continued growth and stability well into the future. Our priority remains business as usual — delivering outstanding quality, innovation and  service to our customers and consumers.”

Last month Ms McCollum received the lifetime achievement award in the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank.

Belfast Telegraph