2 Sisters staff receive no extra pay for working during Queen’s funeral

For the 14,000 workers at chicken giant 2 Sisters, Monday’s bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral meant business as usual.

The West Bromwich-based company which processes more than 10.4 million birds a week in the UK and Europe said “operations will remain open as usual and no additional annual leave has been allocated”.

The move has come under scrutiny from Unite the trade union who said many companies across Britain agreed to give staff an additional days leave, pay workers double time or halt production altogether.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Many companies cannot switch off their operations during bank holidays. But decent employers compensate their staff for working them. 2 Sisters used to be a profitable company, but its atrocious management has turned it into a loss making one”.

The firm, owned by ‘chicken king’ Ranjit Boparan has seen losses increase from £34m to £95.5m in the year to July 2021, despite revenues increasing 10% to £1.4bn.

In it’s accounts, the firm said: “The timing and speed of inflation has meant the opportunity to mitigate all the cost increases has not been achieved within the year.

“Significant labour shortages caused by Brexit and Covid-19… present an ongoing structural challenge for all manufacturing businesses in the UK and has hit the UK poultry business particularly hard.”

2 Sisters said to The Guardian that staff working on Monday would get an extended two-hour break, free breakfast and lunch and could watch the funeral on screens in its canteens.

Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said: “2 Sisters is intent on blaming everything but itself for the labour shortages it is experiencing. But its refusal to provide staff time off lieu or bonus payments during this bank holiday exemplify exactly where the company is going wrong.

“2 Sisters is known for low pay, thankless T&Cs and unpleasant working conditions, their approach to the coming bank holiday does nothing to change that.”

A 2 Sisters spokesperson said: “As a UK-wide fresh food manufacturer, it is essential for us to have continuity of operations so we can provide affordable food during these tough times and help to feed the nation.

“As well as maintaining supply, the very short notice of this bank holiday made any contingencies to safeguard animal welfare, food safety and hygiene requirements impossible for us.

“Whenever there’s a scheduled ‘one-off’ public holiday, like the jubilee celebrations, we can plan accordingly and bank holiday leave can be offered, as we did this summer. Those working Monday will be entitled to an extended two-hour break, free breakfast and lunch, and the funeral can be watched on screens in canteens.

“We recognise that some colleagues will require time off, and all managers have been asked to accommodate additional requests wherever possible.”

The firm came under fire in August, after The Independent reported that chickens had died at a number of companies in the UK, from heat exhaustion due to inadequate ventilation and cooling during this summers heatwave. 2 Sisters Food Group was listed as one of the companies involved.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was “deeply concerned” about the issue and has begun an investigation.

Boparan said at the start of September that 2 Sisters faces having to pay £1m a week in extra costs for the carbon dioxide used to stun birds for slaughter. This is after a supplier pushed up prices following news of a big UK plant halting production.