Citing “challenging marketing conditions”, it plans to temporarily cease processing of live birds at the site until January 2020, with its hatchery also closing until November 2019.
A spokesperson for Moy Park said: “Moy Park is proposing to temporarily cease processing live birds at Ballymena, due to challenging market conditions, with the view that we will re-open the line in January 2020. In line with this, it is proposed the North Antrim Hatchery will temporarily cease hatching until November 2019. We will continue to cut, further process and pack at Ballymena, including retail production of our BBQ products.
Workers’ union Unite has expressed concern that this temporary closure will become permanent.
Sean McKeever, Unite regional officer for the area, said: “Unite is highly concerned at this news of a temporary closure of the ‘kill-line’ at Ballymena. Our members on the shop floor are reporting that they have been told this will result in up to 400 job losses, although the company are telling the media that there will be no job losses and that redundancies can be avoided through redeployment elsewhere. While Unite does not hold recognition rights for this workforce, Unite is the only trade union on the ground in North Antrim and we do not accept the need or case for any job losses in Ballymena or anywhere else in Northern Ireland.”
McKeever said the business was doing well financially despite its claims of “challenging market conditions”. “Moy Park’s latest annual pre-tax profits were just short of £60m – an enormous increase of 67% on the year previously. Current owner Pilgrim’s Pride declared net earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of US$798m in 2018. This is not a company that needs to squeeze its workforce – this is a company that is attacking workers’ pay and conditions to maximise profits for their corporate shareholders.
“Moy Park was sold by JBS SA, Brazilian meat-packing giant, to one of its own subsidiaries Pilgrim’s Pride Corp of the USA. At the time, Unite warned that the likely intent of JBS senior global corporate management was to use new management to cut jobs and pay and the workforce’s confidence in management is already at rock-bottom.
“Moy Park management is telling the press that this is only a temporary closure necessitated by an overhaul of the kill-line,” added McKeever. “The workforce have been left with little confidence that the promised investment will manifest or that the line will reopen as promised in January 2020. If they are genuine about these promises, Moy Park management must offer guarantees that no worker, whether agency or otherwise, will be made redundant. In the absence of such a commitment, this decision effectively threatens to sacrifice the livelihoods of up to 400 workers and 400 families in Ballymena for corporate greed and the drive for ever-greater profits.”
In response, the Moy Park spokesperson said: “We are currently working with our colleagues and their representatives doing our utmost to minimise the impact of this proposal on our excellent workforce, including offering temporary transfers to other shifts and roles. We will also be working closely with our farming partners throughout the process to manage this temporary reduction in poultry requirement.”