UNION leaders have welcomed a decision by the firm operating a food factory associated with a coronavirus outbreak in Wrexham to pay company sick pay to isolating workers.

Unite the Union says it has met with senior management of Rowan Foods, the Wrexham food plant associated with an outbreak of more than 300 cases of coronavirus among the workforce and members of their households, along with Wrexham Council.

Today, the union confirmed that the company now propose to pay company sick pay backdated till June 1 for any Covid-19 positive tested and isolating employees.

Dave Griffiths, Unite Regional Officer, said: “Unite believes that the payment of sick pay for Covid affected workers at Rowan Foods will help enormously in containing this outbreak and limiting wider community spread.

"Unite has requested that our talks continue with Rowan Foods in line with recent Welsh Government guidance. We are seeking urgent answers from Public Health Wales as to how one site had over 300 recorded infections if the site was not, as they state, the source of the infection. This suggests that a wider public health issue is ongoing in the community.

"Our focus remains on the workers and the agency staff who will not receive this Company Sick Pay and their safety. Unite welcomes the first positive meeting with the employer and hopes to continue to work closely with it regarding this issue in the coming weeks and months”.

A spokesperson for Rowas Foods confirmed the firm had met with Unite.

The spokesperson said: “Rowan Foods invited Unite to an online meeting this week to explain the measures we have taken to protect everyone on site since the outset of the pandemic. We already have a productive and engaged Works Council which represents all of our staff.  The Works Council has been involved in the protection arrangements and changes made at the site since before lockdown in March.

"We ensured Unite was informed of the decisions that have been made, with the Works Council’s support, to keep us Covid-secure and to ensure no colleague is financially disadvantaged by doing the right thing and isolating where necessary.”

From the beginning of the cluster, later declared an oubtreak, associated with Rowan Foods, Public Health Wales have said there is no evidence that the factory is the source of the infection.

On Thursday, Dr Robin Howe, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said here had been a “modest increase” associated with Rowan Foods in Wrexham since Friday.

He said: “The outbreak of Coronavirus associated with Rowan Foods Ltd in Wrexham has recorded a modest increase of 13 confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection since Friday last week. This brings the total number of positive cases in the outbreak to 302. This is in line with what we would expect to see from a focused testing process.

“The Food Standards Agency advise that it is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. Coronavirus is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging."