Workers who need to self-isolate at a Banham Poultry factory in Attleborough, Norfolk, where 75 staff have tested positive for coronavirus, must receive ‘adequate sick pay’, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday August 27).
Unite, which has a number of members at the site but is not recognised by the company, said the factory must increase sick pay from the statutory minimum of £95.85 a week that its low paid workers currently receive.
Refusing to provide company sick pay risks workers having to ‘choose between self-isolating or going into work because they cannot afford to be ill’.
Banham Poultry’s parent company, Chesterfield Poultry, turned over more than £120m in the year ending June 2019, making gross profits of more than £32m.
Unite said it has been in contact with the factory’s management and stressed that the safety of staff must come ‘first and foremost’, including considering a temporary shutdown of the entire site while the outbreak is brought under control, with staff being put on paid leave.
“Banham is owned by Chesterfield Poultry, which as multimillion-pound firm can clearly afford to top up the statutory sick pay of £95.85 a week that its low paid workers are expected to live on if they need to self-isolate,” commented Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard.
“Throughout this crisis, Unite has warned food processing employers that poor pay combined with a lack of company sick pay risks staff having to choose between self-isolating or hoping for the best and going into work because they cannot afford to be ill.
“Refusing to provide adequate sick pay is unjust in any circumstances, but particularly so during a pandemic, as well as increasing the risk to other staff and the wider public.
“Unite has been in contact with Banham Poultry’s management and made clear that health and safety of staff must come first and foremost. This includes considering a temporary shutdown of the entire site while the outbreak is brought under control, with staff being put on paid leave,” he concluded.
By Ryan Fletcher