3,000 Northern Ireland Moy Park staff to vote over strike

A strike ballot of more than 3,000 Unite members in the largest Northern Ireland employer will proceed in the coming weeks.

Sean McKeever, Unite regional officer, confirmed that his union would be balloting members over what he described as “unreasonable management demands” in ongoing pay negotiations.

More than 6,300 people work for the company across its sites in Craigavon, Ballymena and Dungannon.

It comes less than two weeks after Moy Park announced it would temporarily close its Ballymena processing plant and North Antrim Hatchery.

McKeever explained that many of the issues began when Moy Park was sold by Brazilian meat-packing giant JBS SA, US firm Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation.

“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 said.

“From our first meetings with the incoming management team, it was apparent that they were intent on attacking terms and conditions of workers in the region which remain among the best of any workforce in the UK agri-food industry.”

It’s understood the dispute centres over proposed changes to shift allowances, Moy Park’s sickness scheme, holiday entitlement, attendance allowance, statutory days and breaks.

“[These are] terms and conditions that were hard won by this workforce over many years and which are simply not up for negotiation,” McKeever said.

“Moy Park’s workforce in Northern Ireland has a strong and well-organised team of Unite workplace representatives. We recently defeated an attempt to divide maintenance engineers from the bargaining unit and saw off attempts to keep union officials off-site.

“Management needs 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.

“The company’s latest annual pre-tax profits were just short of £60 million – an enormous increase of 67% on the year previously.

“Its current owners Pilgrim’s Pride declared net earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of US$798 million in 2018.

These are not businesses that are struggling for survival – the attacks on workers’ pay and conditions are simply part of a drive to maximise profits and increase returns for corporate shareholders.

“Unite is now preparing the roll-out of a ballot on an all-out strike action of our more than 3,000 members working for Moy Park in Northern Ireland.

“Management needs to recognise the determination of this workforce before it leads to unnecessary and entirely avoidable disruption to their operations here,” McKeever added.

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.”