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Bernard Matthews praised for treatment of foreign workers

PUBLISHED: 08:48 14 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:48 02 July 2010

Production line at Bernard Matthews

Production line at Bernard Matthews

Paul Hill, business editor

Norfolk food giant Bernard Matthews Farms has been praised as an example to the rest of the food industry as to how to treat migrant workers with respect.

Norfolk food giant Bernard Matthews Farms has been praised as an example to the rest of the food industry as to how to treat migrant workers with respect.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it has found “widespread evidence” of migrant workers suffering physical and verbal abuse and poor protection from health and safety hazards while they work on British meat industry production lines.

However the report stated: “One firm that was frequently mentioned as an employer of choice for agency workers was Bernard Matthews.

“This was because of the respect for, and lack of differentiation between, agency staff and directly employed workers, and the steps taken to promote good relations between different nationalities.”

Jeff Halliwell, UK managing director of Bernard Matthews, said the firm was pleased to have been highlighted for treating staff fairly.

He said: “As a company we have always worked with staff and the union Unite to ensure that both agency and migrant workers are fully integrated into the business, and firmly believe in an equal pay structure for all our employees.”

The commission said that firms like Matthews - where about 30pc of the 2,000-strong workforce hail from overseas - “benefitted as a result, by being able to attract and retain well motivated, loyal and increasingly skilled workers”.

The commission's 50 page report does not name any of the processing firms or agencies which supply workers where they found evidence of mistreatment.

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