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Migrant factory workers fearful for jobs when self-isolating

PUBLISHED: 14:29 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:10 27 August 2020

Fiona Costello, a researcher at the University of Cambridge who works for migrant charity GYROS has interviewed several migrant workers about conditions at meat factories. Photo: Fiona Costello

Fiona Costello, a researcher at the University of Cambridge who works for migrant charity GYROS has interviewed several migrant workers about conditions at meat factories. Photo: Fiona Costello

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Migrant factory workers are worried they will lose their jobs if they have to self-isolate, a Great Yarmouth charity has said.

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been an Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBanham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been an Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Many of the workers at Banham Poultry, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak, are migrants and Great Yarmouth-based charity GYROS have supported some of them during the pandemic.

Fiona Costello, a University of Cambridge researcher, who works with GYROS, said they had recently contacted 20 migrant workers, who work in Norfolk and Suffolk food production factories, including in poultry factories.

She said workers she had spoken to were also worried about losing their jobs and pay if they self-isolated when they had coronavirus symptoms.

“These are workers who have constantly worked since March,” she said. “Their key worker status meant more hours and new people being employed in these factories to keep up production, but they don’t feel secure in their employment. They are worried about being replaced if they isolate.”

Statutory sick pay is around £13.50 a day, or £95 a week, but on Thursday the government announced a trial in the north west of England to increase sick pay for workers who have to self isolate to £182 a week.

However Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the move “goes nowhere near far enough” and called for people to get full pay when isolating.

Around 350 workers at Banham Poultry are currently self-isolating after 75 tested positive. We have asked the factory what pay the workers are getting during that period.

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See also: Coronavirus cases rise in Breckland and Great Yarmouth after Banham Poultry outbreak



Ms Costello also said migrant workers often lived in cramped conditions and shared lifts to work, making it easier for the virus to spread.

She added that food industry workers had reported some factories were following social distancing guidelines, while others found it too hard.

She said: “Some said social distancing was introduced on factory lines but others we spoke to up until very recently have said social distancing has not been implemented and it would be too difficult to do.”

During the pandemic the government gave the food industry an exemption from the two-metre social distancing rule.

Their guidelines state food manufacturers must only follow social distancing “as far as reasonably possible”.

“Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, consider what measures to put in place to protect employees,” the guidelines state.

See also: How do food factories cope with coronavirus?


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