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Suffolk poultry catchers vote on strike action

PUBLISHED: 11:01 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:25 22 January 2019

Seven Suffolk poultry catchers are balloting on possible strike action  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Seven Suffolk poultry catchers are balloting on possible strike action Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Seven poultry catchers based at Eye are being balloted on possible strike action over Christmas Day working.

Steve Harley, Unite regional officer  Picture: UNITESteve Harley, Unite regional officer Picture: UNITE

Unite the union says voting starts on Wednesday, January 23 and closes on February 1 for the Hook 2 Sisters employees on whether to strike over working on three public holidays – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – and being re-employed on what Unite describes as “inferior” terms and conditions.

The workers, who operate out of a Hook 2 Sisters office in Magdalen Street, go to farms in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk to ‘capture’ the shed-reared chickens and put them in crates. The chickens are then taken to factories for slaughter.

Unite said the poultry catchers were a “vital cog” in the chicken production process.

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The union’s regional officer, Steve Harley, said the workers, who worked for Vion until being transferred over three and half to four years ago, were transferred via a negotiated TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations), and had been prepared to be flexible over a number of matters during negotiations on the proposed changes.

“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,” he said.

“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 goes ahead, production schedules at the poultry factories will suffer, he predicted.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Hook 2 Sisters, which employs a number of other poultry catchers including the seven ‘legacy workers’ from Vion, said: “We note the ballot action and will continue an open dialogue with these seven individuals.”

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