Poultry processing giant Moy Park is facing a ballot on ‘imminent, all out industrial action’ the union Unite has claimed, over management threats to workforce terms and conditions.
Unite has warned that the new owner Pilgrim’s Pride must “reverse course” if it wants to avoid massive disruption to UK chicken supplies after an unofficial ‘consultative’ poll revealed that 95% of the workerforce is prepared to strike.
The company says it is aware of the issue and is working with staff and the union for a resolution.
Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for agri-food sector workers in Northern Ireland, Sean McKeever, issued a strong warning to bosses at Moy Park over the potential consequences of their attempt to remove workers’ shift premiums.
“Unite represents the overwhelming majority of workers employed by Moy Park at their Dungannon and Craigavon sites where workers have been offered a measly 3.5% pay increase in return for the loss of shift premium rates,” he said.
“Not only is this lower than the RPI inflation rate over the past year but under the current government’s long-term policy to raise the statutory legal minimum wage, pay for workers at Moy Park would have to increase by this amount and more in the next few months in any case.
“In effect, management are seeking workers’ longstanding shift premium rates for nothing.”
It is highly relevant, he added, that Moy Park was recently sold by Brazilian meat-packing giant JBS to one of its own subsidiaries Pilgrim’s Pride of the USA, at a time when the company’s profits have been soaring.
“Moy Park’s latest annual pre-tax profits were just short of £60 million, an enormous increase of 67% on the year previously. Meanwhile Pilgrim’s Pride declared net earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $1.39 billion dollars for the year 2017.
“This is not a company that needs to squeeze its workforce – this is a company which is attacking workers’ pay and conditions to maximise profits for their corporate shareholders; indeed at the time of transfer Unite warned that this was the likely intent of JBS’ senior global corporate management.”
Mr McKeever called for management to “immediately reverse their unreasonable and arrogant approach if they are to avoid a strike ballot at Moy Park”.
He said the next step for the workers was an all-out ballot for strike action which if in favour of action, would be fully supported.
“If our members vote for action, Unite will stand behind them with our full strength as a union with 1.4 million members and a £35 million strike fund,” he said.
“The consequences of a strike on this scale – which could be as little as a month away – would be devastating for both Moy Park and UK consumers.
“Industrial action would undermine contracts to supply Waitrose, Marks & Spencers, Tesco, Sainsburys and Lidl to name but a few leading UK multiples.
“While Unite continues to engage with management in the hope of avoiding this destructive outcome, the ball is squarely in their court. Unite will not allow our members to be walked over”, Mr McKeever said
A Moy Park spokesperson said: “We have been in discussions with Union representatives at our Craigavon and Dungannon sites in relation to the annual pay review.
“We continue to liaise with Union representatives and we are hopeful that agreement can be found in the coming days.”