A LEADING union has written to the Northern Ireland government calling for increased testing for its members, claiming that there are “clusters” of covid-19 emerging in poultry and meatpacking centres.

Unite also said a member of its union working in Moy Park’s Dungannon site had died after testing positive for coronavirus.

See also: Moy Park staff walk out over social distancing fears

There is no suggestion that the condition was linked to the workers’ employment at the plant.

Unite’s regional secretary Jackie Pollock said in light of the news “urgent action” was needed to increase testing for workers and their families, and temporarily close sites if necessary.

He has written to the First Minister and deputy First Minister to “demand urgent action” from the Northern Ireland Executive

‘Immediate action’

“It is right that we pay tribute to her memory and extend our condolences to her friends and family,” Mr Pollock said.

“We need to see immediate action in light of this news and the emerging Covid-19 clusters which are emerging at poultry and meatpacking sites.”

He warned of the situation in America, where more than 10,000 workers have tested positive for the virus in meat production plants. “We cannot allow political inaction to lead to a needless repetition of the Covid-19 crisis afflicting our care home sector.

‘High risk nature’

“The high-risk nature of the poultry and meatpacking sector has been widely recognised for some time and makes all the worse the abject failure to roll-out a comprehensive programme of testing for those working in this sector.”

Moy Park paid tribute to the member of staff and said its thoughts were with their family.

In a statement, it said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our team members.

“As we have consistently stated, the health, wellbeing and safety of our Moy Park team members is always our most important consideration.

“Moy Park worked quickly with all key parties (government, industry bodies, employees and unions) as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded.

“We evolved our actions to create and implement bespoke solutions early on, with many of them now recognised as leading the way for food processors. The key significant measures taken included the following:

  • Installation of Perspex screens.
  • Social distancing/team member traffic flow on-site.
  • Staggered breaks / socially distanced restaurants.
  • Enhanced cleaning and additional PPE.
  • Incentive payments to all site-based team members.

“Moy Park follows all government guidelines and work closely with the Public Health Agency, DAERA and the Health and Safety Executive, adhering strictly to their advice and protocols,” the spokesperson added.