Manager at major UK food firm that supplies Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose tells packed staff meeting that they will be sacked if they stay at home during coronavirus crisis
- Some of Bakkavor’s employees said they felt under pressure to go into work
- Video shows Sean Madden telling staff they would be sacked if stayed at home
- Bakkavor said comments were inappropriate and Mr Madden now on leave
- Company added it was wrong to suggest workers did not have appropriate protection
Published: | Updated:
A manager at one of the UK’s largest food supermarket suppliers has been caught on video telling staff they would be first in line for future redundancies if they stayed at home during the coronavirus crisis.
Sean Madden, head of operations at fresh food group Bakkavor, which supplies Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose and has 25 plants nationwide, told stunned workers that their futures were in doubt if they stayed at home.
The address at the company’s north London plant in Elveden was secretly filmed and shared with the Guardian and ITV News.
The footage shows workers, seated less than the recommended six feet apart, listening to Mr Madden as he said the pandemic was leading to falling orders.
It also recorded Mr Madden saying proper social distancing measures were impossible in the factory.
Staff say they have feel pressure to work even if they have underlying health conditions or relatives showing coronavirus symptoms.
In the video he told them: ‘If we need to get rid of 200 people’s jobs next month, I’m going to look at who turned up to work and I’m going to look at who didn’t bother turning up to work
‘The people who didn’t bother turning up to work, you know, they will be the first people that we have to get rid of, unfortunately.’
He added that workers should stay at home if they were unwell or displaying symptoms.
Some of Bakkavor’s employees told the Guardian and ITV News that they felt under pressure to go into work.
The comments were made during a presentation given last week by Sean Madden, head of operations at fresh food group Bakkavor, (pictured) which supplies Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose and has 25 plants nationwide
The company is also facing calls to improve safety measures in its plants after Mr Madden revealed in the video that ‘we can’t social distance in [the factory]’ with employees instead told to use a ‘multi-tube’ – a stretchy fabric scarf used in outdoor sports that can be stretched over the mouth and nose.
Andre Marques, from the GMB union, which has members on the Elveden site, said: ‘This behaviour is absolutely shocking. It is beyond unacceptable to threaten workers with the sack just for trying to keep themselves and their families safe.
‘[We are] calling for urgent action to protect the safety of workers at Bakkavor, including the immediate introduction of social distancing and proper protective equipment. A snood [multi-tube] is not proper protective equipment for a workplace,’ Marques added.
A statement issued by Bakkavor said despite other staff members being furloughed in other parts of the country it has no plans ‘at this time’ to furlough or make factory workers redundant at the Elveden site.
‘The operations manager you recorded at an employee briefing confused furloughing with redundancy and comments made about these were inappropriate. We take this very seriously and are investigating the matter,’ UK food firm Bakkavor said in a statement
Te company said: ‘The operations manager you recorded at an employee briefing confused furloughing with redundancy and comments made about these were inappropriate. We take this very seriously and are investigating the matter.
‘We apologise to our Elveden staff for any miscommunication or worry caused. The manager in question has been given leave and prior to his return to work, he will undertake further training around his role and responsibilities and the high standards we expect of a Bakkavor manager.
‘We are saddened and concerned to hear today that a few colleagues feel under pressure to come to work and we’re putting protocols in place to speak to all staff at their next shift to make it absolutely clear that no colleague should come to work if they feel unwell, are self-isolating or if a family member is unwell.’