A strike ballot of more than three thousand Unite members in Northern Ireland's largest employer, poultry producer Moy Park, will proceed in the coming weeks.
The union confirmed it would be balloting members over 'unreasonable management demands' in ongoing pay negotiations.
Moy Park is Northern Ireland’s largest private sector business and one of Europe’s leading poultry producers, hiring more than 6,300 people across its sites.
It follows news of the company's decision to temporarily close some production at a key processing plant. Poultry producers called it a 'blow' to their livelihoods.
It will stop slaughtering birds at its Ballymena plant until January 2020. Meanwhile, its North Antrim hatchery will also be out of operation until November this year.
Sean McKeever, Unite Regional Officer representing members at Moy Park, said the company was 'intent on attacking terms and conditions of workers in the region.'
“When Moy Park was sold by Brazilian meat-packing giant JBS SA to one of its own subsidiaries, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp of the USA, Unite the union forecasted that this would presage a broader onslaught on workforce terms and conditions.
“Sadly, the accuracy of that forecast is now apparent to every Moy Park worker in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “In recent pay negotiations they have brought forward proposals seeking to undermine Shift Allowances, Sickness scheme, Holiday entitlement, Attendance allowance, Nomi/Statutory days and decent breaks – T&Cs that were hard won by this workforce over many years and which are simply not up for negotiation.”
“Management need to think again – this is not a workforce that will stand by as they slash and burn their way in a race-to-the-bottom on rights and entitlements.”
A Moy Park spokesperson said: “We are aware of the recent union statement and we will continue to engage with the union and work towards a negotiated agreement.”
The company’s latest annual pre-tax profits were just short of £60 million – a major increase of 67 percent on the year previously.
Its current owners, Pilgrim’s Pride, declared net earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $798 million in 2018.