The chicken industry could face ‘serious disruption’, if specialist poultry catchers in Suffolk go on strike after being told they have to work on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that its seven poultry catchers, employed by Hook 2 Sisters at Eye in Suffolk, will start voting tomorrow (Wednesday 23 January) on whether to strike over working on the three public holidays, and being sacked and reemployed on inferior terms and conditions. The ballot closes on Friday 1 February.

Unite said that the poultry catchers were a vital cog in the chicken production process as they go to farms in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk to ‘capture’ the chickens being reared in sheds and put them in crates. The chickens are then taken to factories for slaughter.

Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: “Poultry catching is one of the dirtiest jobs you could imagine – and now the bosses want to deny our members quality time with their families on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. I think the public would regard such a demand as highly unreasonable.

“It is a very specialist job and our members each have between 15 to 20 years’ experience. There is a shortage of people willing to take on this unpleasant work – that’s why the management want our members to work 365 days a year.

“They have tried to use machines to do the work of the poultry catchers, but it was found that mechanical devices damaged the wings and legs of the chickens.

“If the strike by the poultry catchers goes ahead, it will cause serious disruption in the production chain – farms won’t have their birds collected at the right time and the production schedules at the factories will suffer.

“When we challenged management to remove this draconian loss of the public holidays from the contract, they simply ended the consultations. Our members have been pushed into a corner by the high-handed attitude of the bosses.

“The root cause for this situation is the rapacious demands of the supermarkets on the poultry industry to squeeze costs to the minimum.

“The industry needs to act in concert to call a halt to the demands being placed upon it by these retail giants which have scant or no regard for those who work within the supply chains.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.