The decision made by Moy Park to suspend processing at it's Ballymena processing site in Co. Antrim has been challenged by workers union Unite.

Moy Park suspended the operation of its chicken kill line at Ballymena citing difficulties with raw materials, high energy costs and the loss of a recent contract

Unite challenged the explanation offered by the company and stated that the overriding reason for the closure was the chronic labour shortages that the company was experiencing.

Union workforce reps are reporting a complete stalling of inductions as recruitment has stalled across the company.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“Moy Park management need to recognise that Brexit has completely changed the labour market in Northern Ireland.

"They cannot continue to offer low pay and poor working conditions and rely on overseas recruitment to fill the gaps resulting from high staff turnover.

“This is a hugely successful company but instead of amassing more and more profits for shareholders, management need to increase pay and deliver real improvements to terms and conditions to avoid a damaging staffing crisis which will hugely impair their productive capacity.”

Unite regional officer for Moy Park, Sean McKeever, challenged the logic of the decision.

“The approach taken by management is hugely concerning.

"While the workers affected by this shutdown have been redeployed – Moy Park bosses are offering a variety of excuses and refusing to accept that this decision is a direct result of a failure to recruit and retain staff.

"Suspending this kill-line does nothing to address their problems – indeed, it will make it all the more difficult to recruit sufficient numbers to re-establish the facility as they plan in September.

“Unite is concerned that this is the start of a period of retrenchment within Moy Park with bosses more willing to cut production than increase pay or improve working conditions.

"The scale of labour shortages faced by Moy Park and that approach by management poses obvious concerns for thousands of jobs as the economic sustainability of operations comes into question.

"Instead of cutting back production, Moy Park bosses need to invest in their workforce and make this a company people want to work in.”

A spokesperson for Moy Park said:

“As we respond to customer growth and labour market challenges, we are proposing to move team members from the live bird processing line to our further processing lines, enabling us to increase production at Ballymena.

“No jobs will be impacted by these changes however we are planning to temporarily pause live bird processing at Ballymena as we focus on seasonal and retail products.

"The live processing line will restart again in September. We will be working closely with our farming partners throughout the process to manage this temporary reduction in poultry requirement.”