Union protests amid claims of health and safety failures coincide with HSE visit

DEMONSTRATIONS at a Wisbech factory highlighting claims of health and safety failures coincided today with a visit by the Health and Safety Executive. Officials from the Unite union set up outside the Del Monte factory in Weasenham Lane, and encouraged wo

Story by: TOM JACKSON

DEMONSTRATIONS at a Wisbech factory highlighting claims of health and safety failures coincided today with a visit by the Health and Safety Executive.

Officials from the Unite union set up outside the Del Monte factory in Weasenham Lane, and encouraged workers to wear green for the day in support.

Today's demonstration comes after staff claimed levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the plant fell below standards. Del Monte claims that equipment meets guidelines.


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Gary Took, Unite regional organiser, said: "Health and Safety Executive officers were here this morning for what they said was an annual check. It was a total, 100 per cent coincidence.

"We were shouting on the tannoy requesting that Del Monte sort out PPE issues and they came out and took some information from us."

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Balloons and ribbons were also attached to cars in the company's car park, and Mr Took said members of the management were outside bursting the balloons and removing ribbons.

And staff arriving at work in support of the demonstration were given stickers and had their hair sprayed green on the way through the gates.

Mr Took said: "The company was threatening to send people home if they had their hair dyed green, but we sent them a text reminding them that they wouldn't have threatened workers if they arrived with green hair yesterday. We've not heard back."

He added: "We are here to make sure workers get what they deserve. We are not here to harm Del Monte; we want good working relations."

Mr Took said 150 people signed a petition calling for action and that talks were held at Del Monte's head office in Staines, near London, last month.

But he added: "Five months ago we had just five members at this factory. Now we have 70 members, purely because of this issue."

A number of workers came out of the factory for five minutes during the shift change at 1.30pm.

A statement issued on behalf of the company's UK managing director this week said they found "no evidence of substandard PPE equipment at our site in Wisbech".

It said: "We take health and safety and personal protection seriously and require individuals to report any issues, which are quickly addressed.

"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.

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: "Health and Safety inspectors were at Del Monte for a routine inspection.

"Whilst there, inspectors spoke to Unite. We are following up their concerns with Del Monte."

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