Unite national officer for the food and drink industry Joe Clarke said: “Unite, which has thousands of members working in food and drinks industry, has been working closely and constructively with employers during the current coronavirus emergency.
“I would like to make clear from our discussions with firms that there is plenty of food available and the supply chains are working well, so there is no need for panic buying.
“We welcome the government’s announcement today (Friday 20 March) that key workers will include those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery.
“This will give reassurance to parents working in these sectors that their children will be in a school setting while they keep the nation’s food production and supply running smoothly.
“The employers have stepped up to the plate in terms of keeping our members employed and providing sick pay. For example, Nestle had pledged full sick pay for those that have to self-isolate, parents who need time off to care for their children and extending this arrangement to temporary agency workers. Princes, Cadbury Kraft, and Heinz have similar policies in place.
“This is a template that we would like all employers to adopt.
“While demand for food production is increasing as witnessed by the queues at supermarkets, the drinks industry faces big challenges. One pinch point is switching production from kegs to cans as people stay at home.
“The prime minister’s call for people to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants, while not providing a safety net for the hospitality sector, leaves tens of thousands of workers facing losing their jobs.
“A comprehensive financial package to support this sector is needed now, today, as tomorrow could be too late for workers who have bills to pay to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table for their families.
“Unless such a package is unveiled immediately, we could see the death knell for many much-loved pubs and restaurants.
“Unite’s food and drinks members are 100 per cent willing to play their part and we will be monitoring the situation very closely in the days and weeks ahead. I would like to pay tribute to the positive way our members have responded to the challenges at this present time.
“Where necessary, we will be making constructive suggestions and proposals to employers so that food and drink production remains unhindered and there is sufficient food for all.”