24 May 1996

Meat men head for Brussels

ANGRY meat plant workers are to travel to Brussels early next month to press for financial compensation for the BSE crisis from EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler.

Four workers from the Midland Meat Packers plant at Crick, Northampton, will press for cash aid available to the UK under the EUs objective 5a and 5b schemes totalling £1bn, which the Trades Union Congress claims is not being taken up by government (News, May 10).

Midland Meat Packers, one of the UKs largest meat packers and processors, has been badly hit by the BSE-crisis, laying off 130 staff and asking up to 500 employees to take early holidays.

The decision by several of the leading multiples not to take stock from abattoirs involved in the 30-month cattle disposal scheme has led to further job fears among staff at MMP.

Employee Peter Curry, who is one of the four workers leaving for Brussels on June 5, said morale among the workforce was low. "We have had employees working here for 16-18 years, and now out of the blue they have been told there is no work for them and been made redundant.

"They were earning £400-500/week, but after a weeks lay-off pay, they are now on £7.40/day dole money, and have no help from the DHSS," he claimed.

Before the scare MMP was killing 800 head a day, but this has slumped to between 40-50. The company had received permission from the Intervention Board to start with the cattle disposal scheme. It began last Wednesday, only to find the following day that the supermarkets had withdrawn their orders.

Mr Curry was also angry with the supermarkets for failing to help provide financial help for packers at the MMP plant.

"Before March 20, we had two shifts working six days a week, but now there is hardly enough jobs for one shift to do work three days a week," he said.

The meeting has been arranged through the Transport and General Workers Union agricultural section and MEP Angela Bellingham (Lab, Northampton and Blabey). The workers will also meet UK Commissioner Neil Kinnock and TUC European officer Dave Feickert during their three-day stay.

Mrs Bellingham, whose constituency also includes the Anglo Beef Processors plant at Blisworth, said she was delighted to support the meat processing workers, who had been severely hit by the BSE-crisis.