2 Sisters said it followed social distancing whenever it was practically possible and, where it was impractical, it ensured effective hygiene practices were maintained.
A spokesman said: “We have introduced a huge range of additional measures at all our sites across the UK to keep everyone safe. This has ranged from social distancing outside all production areas to intensive and regular deep-clean sessions of all areas, including touch points, and a reinforcing of the already high levels of hand hygiene and sanitation regimes as you’d expect.
“In addition, where possible, we have introduced worker visors, Perspex barriers and adjusted work patterns and flow rates in production areas to minimise social interaction.”
The manufacturer said it had already taken a number of steps to help reduce the potential spread of coronavirus at the Thetford site. These included markers on the entrance to keep people separate, moving canteen tables apart, extending office rooms and ordering portable cabins for extra space at break times.
2 Sisters was responding to a local press report that one worker at 2 Sisters’ site at Thetford, Norfolk, claimed to have been standing almost shoulder to shoulder with other employees. “What struck me was the lack of checks,” the worker told local publication the Eastern Daily Press.
The company is by no means alone in fielding concerns about social distancing. There have been reports of limited walkouts at meat plants by workers concerned about the way measures were being implemented. And trade union Unite has called for mandatory social distancing in factories.
Meanwhile, Greencore has responded to claims from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) that some of its workers were being furloughed on 80% pay without formal consultation. The union was citing complaints made by members at Greencore’s Moulton Park Industrial Estate in Northamptonshire.
Greencore on furlough arrangements
A Greencore spokesman told Food Manufacture it was working though several initiatives to help the Northampton site navigate the short-term disruption and reduction in demand caused by COVID-19.
“At this stage, we do not intend to make any permanent headcount reductions, but we will be making use of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for a number of our colleagues,” said the spokesman.
“We recognise that this is a hugely challenging time for everybody and will be doing everything we can to provide support to our fantastic colleagues at the site. More broadly, Greencore Northampton has an absolutely critical role to play in keeping the UK fed during this period of unprecedented uncertainty.”
The BFAWU was critical of the manufacturer for allegedly forcing an 80% pay cut on furloughed staff without formal consultation. Under recent Government measures, furloughed employees receive up to 80% of their pay while not working. Other businesses, such as Allied Bakeries, had pledged to pay their workers 100% of their wages, the union stressed.