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Meat plant workers 'undertrained' and working with no supervision

And some only turn up to work 75% of the time

Meat plant workers are undertrained and forced to learn on the job without much – or any – supervision.

Examination of staff records at the government owned facility also shows ‘highly sporadic attendance’ with only 75 per cent of employees actually turning up for work each day.

The findings have been revealed after a two-month audit of the Isle of Man Meat Plant in Braddan.

“We believe that staff levels are kept high because many of the staff regularly fail to turn up when required meaning others are needed to cover their jobs.” – Auditors

Discipline:

Auditors found significant challenges around the sourcing of skilled (or indeed any) labour with underperforming staff kept on due to recruitment difficulties when they should have been sacked.

This, the report found, caused ill will within the team as discipline is seen as ‘inadequate’ and is something described by auditors as ‘concerning’.

They also found repeated issues with breaches of the behavioural code with ‘multiple incidences of bad behaviour’ not dealt with, primarily on the basis that the factory needed staff.

“It is clear that there is not a strong and consistent structure in the plant around staff management and discipline.” – Auditors

Training:

Observation of the slaughter lines showed that training is urgently needed to address quality and speed issues with output at just 20-30 per cent of what would be possible if the facility had adequate numbers of skilled staff in place.

During the audit a new team member was witnessed being handed a knife, on the afternoon of his second day, to help on the slaughter line.

The individual had received no training, other than his induction, including no knife skills or safety training.

The ‘almost total absence’ of appropriate training has left loyal workers with very few ways to develop their skills and careers and reporting feeling undervalued.

This is said to be further compounded by staff being regularly moved from job to job meaning they’re unable to develop specialisms and are often operating outside their skillset.

Morale:

Whilst many people are generally happy in the meat plant environment auditors say it is also clear that for some the ‘reality is quite different’.

Concerns over leadership from senior management were ‘repeatedly mentioned’ to auditors from staff and ‘multiple’ outside stakeholders.

Auditors concluded that it was evident the ‘toxic culture’ within the factory was caused, or enabled, by senior leaders – they also found the board of directors did not hold management to account.

Almost all operatives told auditors that they did not feel valued by senior management and multiple individuals had identified a bullying culture with ‘favourites’ being protected and others ignored.

Several staff also reported bullying being used as a tactic to control rather than manage staff with problems being ignored or hidden rather than being dealt with.

Productivity:

The pace of work across all aspects of production at the Isle of Man Meat Plant was found to be a ‘magnitude slower’ than what would be accepted within a fully commercial factory.

Auditors found there has been a failure to implement a continuous improvement culture which would enable staff to become more effective.

Numerous instances of staff being asked to deliver in roles which they were not qualified for, and which they don’t possess the ideal level of skills for, were highlighted.

“In our view there are many instances where the focus in Isle of Man Meats is on delivery of the urgent (get staff for now) to the detriment of the important (train key staff for the future).” - Auditors

Auditors found the factory could operate with fewer staff if the operational team were much better trained and the slaughter lines were operated more quickly.

This would mean that, even if running at full commercial speed, the factory could offer full time work for a smaller number of people with the report highlighting that a reduced number of more reliable staff is essential.

Employment costs are high for the amount of product that the factory is producing and are running at least one third above expectations

If fully staffed there would be the potential to process around 600 cattle per week and about 3000 lambs – at present the plant is processing around 80 cattle per week and 600 lambs as well as 20 pigs.

Turnaround plan:

The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture says a ‘turnaround plan’ is underway and it’s attempting to recruit a new plant manager and permanent chair.

Four new directors of the board have also been appointed.

DEFA Minister Clare Barber appeared live on Manx Radio Breakfast to discuss the findings, where she acknowledged the meat plant is 'pivotal' for the Island's food security, and says it's 'imperative' to address the issues raised:

You can find out more HERE.

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