Company admits number of confirmed cases but so far fails to disclose numbers.
The Health and Safety Executive conducted an inspection of the site last week and set recommendations to company requiring an Action Plan by Thursday [May 14th]
Gareth Scott, Senior Officer for his union’s membership in in Foyle Omagh (formerly Omagh Meats) called on management at the company to confirm the number of cases of Covid-19 in their workforce and to take immediate action to ensure the safety of employees.
“Unite has been actively seeking to secure effective infection control in Foyle Foods’ Omagh site for some time. As a result of concerns raised directly by the workforce, the Health and Safety Executive NI conducted an inspection of the Omagh site and made a series of recommendations which the company has until this Thursday [May 14th] to address through an action plan.
“At the very least, if the Company does not implement proper measures to ensure worker safety then the Health and Safety Executive NI (HSE) must urgently use its powers to make mandatory proposals through an Improvement Notice or a Prohibition Notice. The failure of the HSE to enforce such proposals and instead to make only non-binding recommendations is evidence of their wider failure to address fully the severity of the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to meat sector workers.
“Over past days, reports have emerged of growing numbers of suspected and now confirmed cases in the meatpacking factory. There are huge concerns among the local community and the workforce. Some workers have indicated that the only thing keeping them at work is the fear of losing wages and the economic difficulties this would bring. No worker should have to choose between livelihood and safety.
“The union welcomes the announcement that Foyle Omagh will conduct testing for all staff over next two weeks but this does not go far enough, as testing should be ongoing. Lack of testing capacity is also a major failing of the UK Government and the NI Executive, testing for everybody is the only way out of the current lockdown and the experience in Care Homes and now Food Processing plants is a clear demonstration of the need for adequate testing.
“The Northern Ireland Executive must act immediately to enforce a tailored sectoral response to the crisis in poultry and meatpacking. Unite is calling for any site, including Foyle Omagh, that has an outbreak of COVID-19 cases to be temporarily closed for intensive testing of workers and family members allowing it to reopen safely when results are known – with all workers retained on full pay in the meantime – as essential workers they deserve nothing less”, Mr Scott said.