The Smithfield-owned Polish meat producer Animex announced on January 24 that it would eliminate 230 jobs at its factory in Morliny, near Ostróda, as a result of its decision to shut down the factory’s beef processing line.
Since purchasing Animex from Spain-based Campofrio in 2005, Smithfield has been gradually eliminating beef operations in Poland. The Morliny factory, a major beef supplier to McDonald’s, is the last one left.
The workers and their union committee, which belongs to the IUF-affiliated Food Workers Secretariat of Solidarnosc (SPSPOZ Solidarnosc) were expecting this development, and since September had been calling for a meeting to discuss the company’s future plans and the consequences for the workforce. But management ignored them. Management also ignored a series of legal requirements on union consultation in the event of collective dismissals.
Amongst the union’s demands to the company are continued employment for vulnerable workers, including single parents, married couples (both working in the plant) and workers over 50; and an improvement to the severance package which currently amounts to the legal minimum of two monthly salaries.
Smithfield is so far unwilling to give more than the minimum and is not offering any job-placement assistance or retraining schemes either.
About 100 of the workers facing dismissal staged a protest on 13 February, blocking the gates to the plant.