Bullying claims at Welsh meat promotion firm

Welsh lamb on chopping board
Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales is responsible for promoting the sale of Welsh lamb, beef and pork

Concerns have been raised about alleged bullying of staff at a meat promotion company overseen by the Welsh government.

North Wales Senedd Member Llyr Gruffydd has called for a Senedd committee inquiry into Welsh meat promoter Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales.

Six members of staff complained separately about bullying behaviour by a manager and an external investigation upheld several complaints against the individual concerned, according to Newyddion S4C.

The Welsh government said it did not comment on staffing at "arm's length bodies".

Mr Gruffydd said he was concerned about "allegations of bullying and the way these have been handled by the chair and certain board members".

The meat promotion firm - which promotes the sale of Welsh lamb, beef and pork - is a private company limited by guarantee, and the Welsh government is ultimately responsible for its oversight.

According to its latest annual report, it employed 35 members of staff in 2021.

The report also showed an income of about £3.5m, obtained from a levy placed on farmers when selling red meat, and an additional £2m from government grants.

In a letter to the Welsh government's rural affairs minister, Lesley Griffiths, Mr Gruffydd said he was "not satisfied" by previous private correspondence between them relating to recent allegations at the meat promotion body.

He called on Ms Griffiths to "intervene directly" and said he would be writing to the Senedd's Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee, asking for an inquiry "to ascertain the facts and provide assurances pertaining to the organisation’s leadership and governance, its internal processes and its ability to deliver its remit".

Mr Gruffydd claimed intervention was necessary to protect those involved in allegations of bullying and poor governance, and to prevent damaging Wales' red meat sector.

It is the latest in a long line of Welsh bodies facing questions about their governance and culture, following recent high-profile scandals at the Welsh Rugby Union, Welsh-language broadcaster S4C, and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Despite Hybu Cig Cymru saying they would "take action" to resolve the issue, BBC Wales understands those actions were not shared with staff, with some feeling the matter had not been dealt with appropriately.

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association said: "I'm hearing all sorts of stories and allegations coming from Hybu Cig Cymru, and I'm concerned as to how levy-payers' money is being used, and whether all this leads to HCC taking its eye off the ball."

In a statement, Hybu Cig Cymru said it "must advise that it would not be proper for any HR matters to be discussed in public on the basis of anonymous sources".

"Publication of such information will place Hybu Cig Cymru... at significant reputational risk," it added.

"We do not comment on internal staff matters and therefore no further information will be provided."

The Welsh government said it did not comment "on staffing in arms length bodies".

"The minister will respond to the correspondence in due course," it said.

The meat promoter's chief executive Glyn Howells has been away from his work since last summer, but there is no suggestion he was associated with the bullying complaints.

Hybu Cig Cymru said Mr Howells "will not be undertaking his duties for a period of time" due to "a period of sickness absence".