Bernard Matthews workers get government help

23 February, 2007

The government yesterday agreed a support package for workers laid off by Bernard Matthews following a 40% slump in sales.

Work and pensions minister John Hutton agreed extra help in Portuguese and fast-track extra benefits at a meeting with the unions representing the 130 workers who have been laid off for four weeks and may lose their jobs altogether.

Transport and General Workers Union spokesman Claire Ainsley said: "The T&G spoke with John Hutton specifically with reference to payment of benefits to the workers laid off thus far. He agreed to instruct the Norfolk agencies to process the payments without delay.

"He said the government is fully committed to offering every support to the workers lay off. Because of language difficulties John Hutton has agreed that extra Portuguese speaking staff will be made available to the benefits agencies."

At the same time the government confirmed that no evidence had been found of the H5N1 virus anywhere in the UK other than at the Bernard Matthews plant at Holton in Suffolk.

Defra minister Lord Rooker said: "It appears that this is exclusively a Bernard Matthews Holton problem. There is no evidence anywhere else in this country of H5N1 infection in the wild bird population, the intensive poultry population or the free range poultry population."

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