Bernard Matthews in the dark on reinstatement of workers at bird flu farm

Bernard Matthews is looking to the government to give it an idea of when it can allow staff back to the Suffolk factory struck by a bird flu outbreak.

The turkey food producer has sent all but a few key workers home from the site while government experts gas 160,000 turkeys in an attempt to contain the disease.

An Asian strain of the deadly H5N1 virus was found at the farm in Holton, Suffolk, over the weekend. The cull was expected to be over by today (Tuesday), but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) maintained strict controls on the area.

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said: “The vast majority of staff are not working today. A few key personnel are helping with the cull.”

Asked when the workers may be able to return, the spokesman replied: “We are waiting for Defra to tell us. We are not going to do anything until they give the go-ahead.”

The company insisted no jobs were at threat from the outbreak, but would not confirm that everyone would be able to return to the Lowestoft site, or that workers would stay on full pay while being kept off work.

Defra said that while it would be compensating Bernard Matthews for the turkeys it lost in the cull, it was up to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to pay for working hours lost.

However, the DWP insisted this was the role of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the DTI said it was Defra’s job.

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