June 27, 2008 / 2:26 PM / 12 years ago

Union anger at "Dickensian" toilet policy

LONDON (Reuters) - A meat company has been branded Dickensian after forcing its employees to clock-off every time they want to go to the toilet.

The union Unite has criticized the meat processor for “essentially stopping staff pay when they visit the toilet.”

The company, based in Dumfriesshire, insists anyone wanting to be excused from the system has to provide medical evidence, the union added.

Unite, joint general secretary, Tony Woodley said in a statement on its website: “We believe these are Dickensian employment practices.

“It’s outrageous that in 2008 workers should have to endure the indignity of clocking out for toilet breaks as well as other practices which we believe invade their privacy.”

It has called on Tesco to force its supplier to end such a practice.

“Brown Brothers have refused to change its policy, but the union is demanding that Tesco the UK’s largest retailer ensures decent employment standards within its supply chain,” Woodley added.

“The workers at Brown Brothers are essentially having their pay stopped for going to the toilet. Tesco must do everything in its power to investigate these practices and put an end to them.”

Nobody was immediately available for comment from Brown Brothers.

Media reports quoted the company as saying the policy was part of a special pay deal agreed with workers and unions to ensure production ran smoothly.

Workers have to clock out, take off their wellies, overalls and hairnets before leaving for the toilet.

Staff received extra money as part of the pay deal which was aimed at focusing toilet breaks at set times of the day, the BBC quoted the company as saying.

Tesco said in a statement: “We take the issue of labor standards very seriously and require all our suppliers to meet strict independent audited criteria.”

Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Jeremy Lovell

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