Union plans day of action over safety issues at factory - claims denied by company bosses

By John Elworthy UNION officials are planning a day of action in Wisbech on Thursday to highlight what they claim are health and safety failures at a local factory. Unite will be targeting the Del Monte plant in Weasenham Lane where they claim to have re

By John Elworthy

UNION officials are planning a day of action in Wisbech on Thursday to highlight what they claim are health and safety failures at a local factory.

Unite will be targeting the Del Monte plant in Weasenham Lane where they claim to have recruited 70 members - around one fifth of the workforce- this year.

Gary Took, a regional organiser with Unite, says the union will be encouraging workers to wear green for the day to show support for the campaign.


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He claimed levels of personal protective equipment at the plant fell below recognised standards although he conceded the company had claimed all work complied with national standards.

A statement issued tonight on behalf of the company's UK managing director said they had found "no evidence of substandard PPE equipment at our site in Wisbech. "We take health and safety and personal protection seriously and require individuals to report any issues, which are quickly addressed.

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"Our Wisbech site has successfully passed all audits whether they be internal, external, ethical or from our customers.

"Despite giving this matter much time and attention we are disappointed that Unite have not seen fit to respond to our letter but have decided to adopt a confrontational approach."

However Mr Took argues that there are issues with Del Monte over issuing of hard hats, clothing, and protective goggles for use by night time staff involved in cleaning.

He also said such things as wellington boots and protective footwear was often inadequate and that the store room, where workers could go for such equipment, usually closed at 4pm each day.

"This is unfortunate since a large number of workers clock on at 5pm and cannot always get the equipment they need," he said.

"These are very serious issues and we are planning a 'Go Green for PPE' outside the factory gates throughout Thursday," he said.

Union members are being asked to come to work in green jackets and to wear items of green clothing to show their support.

A company official said Del Monte headquarters was preparing a press release to rebut the claims made by the union.

This afternoon Unite sent this newspaper a photo taken, they say, inside the Wisbech factory showing alleged deficiencies in wiring. We forwarded it to Del Monte but a company spokesman said: "Unfortunately we are unable to comment on this anonymous photograph and cannot substantiate that the machinery is in fact our own.

"As per our managing director's statement I would like to reiterate that we are fully audited and we also have an Engineering Department in-house at Wisbech that undertakes planned preventative maintenance.

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