Over 3,000 members of staff at poultry firm Moy Park are to be balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay negotiations.
Unite Regional Officer Sean McKeever said that the ballot would proceed in the coming weeks due to “unreasonable management demands in ongoing pay negotiations”.
Mr McKeever said that during pay negotiations the incoming management team from Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation had “brought forward proposals seeking to undermine shift allowances, sickness scheme, holiday entitlement, attendance allowance, nomi/statutory days and decent breaks”.
He said that the current conditions were “hard won by this workforce over many years and are simply not up for negotiation”.
In response to Mr McKeever’s claims, as reported in the Belfast Telegraph, a Moy Park spokesperson said that the company were aware of the statement and “will continue to engage with the union and work towards a negotiated agreement”.
Pointing to recent union successes, Mr McKeever said staff at Moy Park were “not a workforce that will stand by as they slash and burn their way in a race-to-the-bottom on rights and entitlements”.
He said that the company’s latest annual pre-tax profits were just short of £60m and this showed the business was not “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,” Mr McKeever said.
“Unite is now preparing the roll-out of a ballot on all-out strike action of our more than three thousand members working for Moy Park in Northern Ireland.
“Management need to recognise the determination of this workforce before it leads to unnecessary and entirely avoidable disruption to their operations here.”
Earlier this month it emerged that the company will cease processing of live birds at the Ballymena plant which will have a knock-on effect on its nearby hatchery. Other production processes will continue at the plant.
Around 1,700 people are employed at the Ballymena site, however, it understood no job losses are being considered with staff moved to other sites, or to other roles until production fully resumes.
Moy Park is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers and is a huge buyer of poultry on both sides of the border.
Based in Craigavon, Co Armagh, it employs 6,300 people across Northern Ireland and 12,000 more at operations in the Republic and elsewhere in Europe.
Founded in 1943 it was bought by JBS from Marfig for £1.2bn in 2015 before being sold on to the Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation in September 2017, a subsidiary of JBS. That purchase is currently subject of legal proceedings in the US by shareholders to determine if the purchase was fair.
Last year it was reported the company had a record turnover of £1.5bn with pre-tax profits of £64milion.