Coronavirus: Workers walk out of Moy Park site over safety concerns

Workers undertook a 'mass walkout' at a Moy Park agri-food processing site (Photo: Google Maps)
Workers undertook a 'mass walkout' at a Moy Park agri-food processing site (Photo: Google Maps)

Dozens of workers have walked out of a Moy Park food processing site over fears of 'unsafe conditions' in relation to the spread of coronavirus.

Staff for the Northern Ireland-based poultry producer walked out of the Portadown, Co Armagh site due to concerns over the Covid-19 outbreak, Unite union said.

The firm is one of the UK’s top 15 food companies and Northern Ireland’s largest private sector business.

Unite said it had tried to win commitments to ensure a minimum two-metre social distancing between workers to stop the spread of the virus.

Sean McKeever, regional officer for the union, said: "We need to see immediate movement from management to address the workers’ legitimate fears over coronavirus transmission.

"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."

It comes as the government recently said that workers in the food supply chain are part of an essential service during the outbreak.

A spokeswoman for Moy Park said the health and wellbeing of its staff was the firm's 'most important consideration'.

"We have put new, robust measures in place to keep them safe," she said, "We have thoroughly reviewed our sites and continue to take on board feedback from our team members.

"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)."

She added: "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.”

The firm recently said it would create 'hundreds' of temporary jobs at its food processing sites due to a 'heightened demand for chicken produce'.