A cluster of workers at one of the UK’s largest supermarket suppliers have been diagnosed with coronavirus – months after a boss told staff to avoid missing shifts during lockdown.
Staff at Bakkavor Desserts in Newark, Nottinghamshire, are at the centre of a Covid-19 flare up after around eight workers tested positive.
In April, Sean Madden, head of operations at the fresh food group, was filmed telling stunned workers their futures were in doubt if they stayed at home during lockdown.
Workers at Bakkavor Desserts (pictured) in Newark, Nottinghamshire, are at the centre of a Covid-19 flare up
The number of coronavirus cases in Nottinghamshire has risen by 49 in the last week – sparking fears the number of people affected by the outbreak could be much higher.
There were 3,055 cases of Covid-19 in the county on July 29. The number has now risen to 3,104, according to the latest Public Health England (PHE) figures.
There are currently 338,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK and 46,364 deaths have been recorded.
Staff at the plant, which employs 1,600 people, previously told their local media social distancing measures were not being followed.
Bakkavor said in a statement: ‘A small number of colleagues have recently tested positive for covid-19 at our Bakkavor Desserts site in Newark.’
MailOnline has contact Public Health England for comment.
It comes after Mr Madden was secretly filmed speaking to staff at the company’s north London plant in Elveden.
The footage showed 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 said they have felt 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 at the time: ‘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.
Some of Bakkavor’s employees told the Guardian and ITV News that they felt under pressure to go into work after the speech (pictured)
The 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.’