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Assault claim, biohazards in chicken strike

Workers at Ingham’s want an 18 per cent pay rise over the next three years. The company has allegedly offered an 11 per cent bump. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE / Emma Brasier

A major chicken processing facility at the centre of a rolling strike has been marred by an alleged assault and unlawful blockades leading to biohazard risks, according to a supervisor at the plant.

Troy Lawson, a manager at the Ingham’s Bolivar plant in Adelaide, testified before a Fair Work Commission hearing on Monday afternoon that United Workers Union workers, who have shut down the facility over a pay dispute with the company, had blocked employees and trucks from entering and leaving the plant.

Mr Lawson, who was on-site across Friday and the weekend, said Gates 3 and 5, the main access and exit points at the facility, were blocked by strikers “linking arms.”

He said only two trucks had been permitted to leave since Saturday, leading to a build-up of waste and offal from processed birds.

The Fair Work Commission has stepped in to mediate the escalating dispute between Ingham’s and striking workers. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE / Emma Brasier

He said offal had “overflowed” into the yard and production area because the company could not get trucks in and out.

Mr Lawson also referenced a possible assault that had taken place at the facility, though the details of the alleged assault were not shared by Mr Lawson during his evidence.

The ASX-listed poultry supplier is arguing before the FWC that the union’s alleged actions fall outside of protected industrial action.

An Offal bin left outside the Ingham’s factory as strikes roll on. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE / Emma Brasier

Chicken shortages loom across Australia as the shutdown, which kicked off last Friday, rolls on.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and United Workers Union want a 6 per cent pay increase for workers each year for the next three years.

It is understood Ingham’s has offered an 11 per cent bump.

The company and the union went into mediation talks on Monday and it is understood Ingham’s has presented a new agreement to the UWU, which it is now considering.

Claire Lewis, a union organiser at the Adelaide plant, confirmed the strike action would extend through the week if an agreement could not be reached.

The United Workers Union has shut down Inghams’ Bolivar chicken processing plant in Adelaide’s north. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Emma Brasier

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is backing the strike.

“These are low-paid workers often from migrant communities who have come to Australia to do work that a lot of other people frankly wouldn’t consider,” Mr Malinauskas told ABC Radio Adelaide on Monday.

ASX-listed Inghams has a market capitalisation of $1.25bn and supplies chicken to Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway.

On Friday, a KFC spokesman confirmed the fast-food icon was working on “contingency plans” with Inghams to maintain supply to its West Australian and South Australian stores.

“While the strike is taking place, we don’t expect any impact to chicken supply across our restaurants,” he said.

Inghams has been contacted for comment.

More to come