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Moy Park says 100 workers staged 15 minute walkout over coronavirus safety fears at plant

Union had claimed 1,000 took part

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Staff have walked out of food firm Moy Park over coronavirus safety concerns. PHOTO PACEMAKER PRESS

Staff have walked out of food firm Moy Park over coronavirus safety concerns. PHOTO PACEMAKER PRESS

Staff have walked out of food firm Moy Park over coronavirus safety concerns. PHOTO PACEMAKER PRESS

Moy Park has said 100 staff staged a walk out at one of its plants and they returned to work after 15 minutes.

Earlier trade union Unite said there had been a “mass walk-out” by staff of up to 1,000 workers at Moy Park in Seagoe, Portadown, over what it said was a lack of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

A spokeswoman for Moy Park said the health and wellbeing of its staff was "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," she said.

"We had already identified seven 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.”

Food factories have been deemed essential businesses which are to stay open even as others close - but they are required to have social distancing measures in place for their employees.

In Lurgan, around 80 staff are reported to have walked out of a factory owned by Irish meat giant ABP, again over health and safety concerns. The company has been asked for comment.

Unite regional officer Sean McKeever claimed that Moy Park had failed to provide “basic health and safety” protections, leading employees to walk out.

“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," he said.

“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.”

Unite’s Susan Fitzgerald said the 80 workers at ABP had refused to work due to lack of provisions to maintain social-distancing.

She said workers are demanding adequate social distancing of two metres be facilitated and enforced and other measures be adopted to keep workers as "separated as possible and deep-cleans are conducted on work stations where workers have self-isolated with coronavirus symptoms".

She called for a full lockdown of non-essential factories.

“Government inaction is going to cost lives. There must be a full lock-down of non-essential companies and where workers are deemed essential every possible measure should be taken and enforced to protect them - or else they shouldn’t be there.”

Belfast Telegraph