The GMB union has called on Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to enter into a dialogue with food producers and unions to address the “inadequacy of the government advice”.
The calls from GMB comes after reports of coronavirus-related deaths to workers in UK food processing facilities. Three workers at a Cranswick food processing facility in Barnsley, which supplies major supermarkets, are confirmed to have died after testing positive for coronavirus, while a staff member at the Moy Park poultry site in Dungannon, Northern Ireland was also confirmed to have died due to COVID-19.
The union has revealed that it has written to the Secretary of State and major retailers regarding the potential problems in the food and drink supply chain that could lead to unnecessary deaths.
GMB’s letter came after the Food Standards Agency issued new guidance for food manufacturers, which the government said had been produced following consultation with food manufacturers, unions, industry bodies and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Despite these updated guidelines, GMB are still concerned that the guidance provided to the industry as a whole is “inadequate” and cite the COVID-19 related deaths at the Cranswick plant as evidence that more needs to be done.
GMB National Officer Eamon O’Hearn said:
Our thoughts are firmly with the family and colleagues of those victims.
It’s imperative that Cranswick works with GMB to review operations and identify any issues that could impact on the safety of our members. We really hope that they’ve been following GMB guidance on social distancing which is significantly more comprehensive than Government guidance recently issued.
We wrote to the Secretary of State for DEFRA about our concerns earlier this month, precisely because we wanted to avoid further deaths in our industry.
Its now crucial that DEFRA establish a dialogue on the food and drink supply chain, including addressing the inadequacy of the Government Guidance issued last week.