Over 3,000 Moy Park workers in North may strike in pay dispute

Trade union to ballot poultry firm employees over ‘unreasonable management demands’

Plans to pause processing of live birds at Moy Park’s Ballymena plant is a threat to jobs, says trade union Unite.

Plans to pause processing of live birds at Moy Park’s Ballymena plant is a threat to jobs, says trade union Unite.

 

Pilgrim’s Pride, the owner of Moy Park, looks set for its first showdown with unions in Northern Ireland after a ballot was called for all-out strike action involving more than 3,000 workers.

The trade union Unite confirmed that it plans to ballot members at various Moy Park sites in the North over what it described as “unreasonable management demands in ongoing pay negotiations”.

In a statement, Moy Park said it was aware of the union’s move and that it intends “to engage with the union and work towards a negotiated agreement”.

Pilgrim’s Pride, which employs more than 51,000 people and operates chicken processing plants and prepared-foods facilities throughout Europe, the US, Puerto Rico and Mexico, acquired Moy Park for $1.3 billion in 2017.

Earlier this month Moy Park confirmed it plans to “temporarily” close a key production line at one of its biggest plants in the North.

The company said it plans to “temporarily” stop processing live birds at its Ballymena plant because of what it has described as “challenging market conditions”.

Job risk

Unite has claimed the decision by the North’s largest private sector employer could put 400 jobs at risk in Ballymena.

Unite regional officer Sean McKeever said the union initially feared that Pilgrim’s Pride would seek to make changes to existing arrangements when it acquired Moy Park two years ago.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Mr McKeever said the ballot for strike action will take place in the coming weeks.