Moy Park responds to union’s call for closure following death of worker from Covid-19

Moy Park responds to union’s call for closure following death of worker from Covid-19

Poultry meat producer Moy Park has labelled the claims made from trade union Unite as “inaccurate” after a worker from its Dungannon site died from coronavirus. 

Moy Park’s Dungannon factory is under pressure from the Unite union to close following the death of a worker from coronavirus.

Meat Management understands that the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive has said it is in discussions with the poultry processor to understand the circumstances surrounding the death.

In a statement, Moy Park said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our team members. Our thoughts are with Luciana’s family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.

“The terrible impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to greatly affect everyone’s daily lives throughout our community.

“As we have consistently stated, the health, wellbeing and safety of our Moy Park team members is always our most important consideration. It is all the more disappointing therefore to have to respond to  inaccurate claims made by Unite the Union.”

Union response

Jackie Pollock, regional secretary for Unite, has written to the First Minister and deputy First Minister to demand urgent action from the Northern Ireland Executive, saying: “It is now confirmed that a member of our union working in Moy Park in Dungannon died of Covid-19. It is right that we pay tribute to her memory and extend our condolences to her friends and family. We need to see immediate action in light of this news and the emerging Covid-19 clusters which are emerging at poultry and meatpacking sites.

“We cannot allow a crisis to develop in the sector such as has been witnessed in the USA where more than 10,000 workers have contracted the virus, with scores dead, or in Brazil where the number afflicted remains unknown due to the inadequacy of testing. We cannot allow political inaction to lead to a needless repetition of the Covid-19 crisis afflicting our care home sector.

“The high-risk nature of the poultry and meatpacking sector has been widely recognised for some time and makes all the worse the abject failure to roll-out a comprehensive programme of testing for those working in this sector. The absence of extensive testing among all essential workers has been a key factor leading to this growing crisis, a crisis which is already spilling over into the local communities from which these workers come.”

Moy Park actions

In its full statement the poultry processor has vigorously defended its actions in response to the virus and its threat to employees’ health: “Moy Park worked quickly with all key parties (Government, industry bodies, employees and unions) as the Covid-19 crisis unfolded. We evolved our actions to create and implement bespoke solutions early on, with many of them now recognised as leading the way for food processors. The key significant measures taken included the following:

  • Installation of perspex screens.
  • Social distancing / team member traffic flow on site.
  • Staggered breaks / socially distanced restaurants.
  • Enhanced cleaning and additional PPE.
  • Incentive payments to all site based team members.

“These measures have been in place for some time at all our sites and are stringently followed. These are also exactly the type of measures that Government guidance is now calling for as other industries return to work. We continue to consult, evolve and review our measures to ensure rigorous safety, for example we are in the process of introducing thermal temperature scanning of all team members as they arrive at work.

“We reiterate, Moy Park follows all Government guidelines and work closely with the Public Health Agency, DAERA and the Health and Safety Executive, adhering strictly to their advice and protocols. We have received positive feedback following a recent unannounced inspection by the HSE that was conducted at one of our other sites, which has the same measures in place to those at Dungannon. The inspection focused solely on the controls which we have in place to ensure employee safety in relation to Covid-19. We will continue to update our procedures in line with their guidance.

“We work tirelessly to protect the safety of our team and we formally review the situation daily. Finally, we just want to say how incredibly proud we are of all of our people, who truly deserve the name of being Food Heroes, as they aim to help feed the nation during this crisis.”

BMPA response

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), added: “BMPA publishes best practice guidelines which we constantly look to update and improve. We have encouraged all our members to adopt those guidelines so that plants can ensure the safety of their staff and make them feel comfortable and confident about the workplace.

“Social distancing in a food production environment can be challenging at times, but the guidelines demonstrate that there is much that can be done. Indeed, many of the standards and practices that British meat companies already comply with are in place to ensure scrupulous food safety and hygiene; our industry is used to applying these kinds of rules and is well placed to adapt to the new coronavirus measures.

“To date the British meat supply chain has been working well with a low number of incidents and low absenteeism. The industry in the UK is coping with the crisis much better than in some other countries and, as a result, has been able to keep things running relatively smoothly.

“BMPA has also been assisting members to register for testing their workers and, while the testing system is improving daily, it is still a work in progress and isn’t always functioning as one would hope.”

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