Moy Park blames market conditions for partial closure of Co Antrim factory
Moy Park has blamed “challenging market conditions” for a decision to temporarily halt some production at one of its Northern Ireland factories, with a trade union voicing concerns the decision could lead to mass job losses.
The company said it will cease processing of live birds at the Ballymena plant which will have a knock-on effect on its nearby hatchery. Other production processes will continue at the plant.
Around 1,700 people are employed at the site, however it understood no job losses are being considered with staff moved to other sites, or to other roles until production fully resumes.
Trade union Unite, however, has said they are concerned the decision could result in the loss of up to 400 jobs.
A Moy Park spokesman 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.
“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.”
Sean McKeever, regional officer for the trade union Unite, said they are “highly concerned” that the closure may result in job losses.
“Our members on the shop floor are reporting that they have been told that this will result in up to four hundred 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,” he said.
“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.”
Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan said he has request a meeting with the senior management at Moy Park to discuss the “very worrying situation”.
“I obviously welcome that the company has said there will be no job losses but there are still very real concerns as to how this halt will impact on the local workforce and economy,” he said.
“Given the loss of the Michelin and JTI plants in Ballymena, this announcement is another major worry for workers and the wider community.”
Moy Park is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers and is a huge buyer of poultry on both sides of the border.
Based in Craigavon, Co Armagh, it employs 6,300 people across Northern Ireland and 12,000 more at operations in the Republic and elsewhere in Europe.
Founded in 1943 it was bought by JBS from Marfig for £1.2bn in 2015 before being sold on to the Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation in September 2017, a subsidiary of JBS. That purchase is currently subject of legal proceedings in the US by shareholders to determine if the purchase was fair.
Last year it was reported the company had a record turnover of £1.5bn with pre-tax profits of £64milion.