Coronavirus: Staff concerns at restart of shortbread production

By Isla Todd
BBC Scotland

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image copyrightWalkers Shortbread
image captionWalkers' products include shortbread, biscuits, cakes and oatcakes

Shortbread-maker Walkers is to end its temporary suspension on production next week.

The Moray-based company closed its sites two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Some workers have raised concerns about returning to work amid the pandemic but Walkers said it will have new safety measures in place.

It is understood employees who do not want to return to work on Monday have been offered an extra week of furlough.

One worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, told BBC Scotland that while staff appreciated new protections would be in place concerns remained because of the number of people needed for production.

They said their worries about returning to work was shared by colleagues.

'Strict' social distancing

Walkers employs more than 1,100 people and has sites in Aberlour, Elgin and the US.

The company said it will have "strict" social distancing in place and "enhanced hygiene facilities".

Workers on production lines will be separated by plastic screens and private buses used by staff will have reduced capacity.

A spokesman for the company said: "We have had a very positive response so far to our message about restarting work.

"We are sorry to hear some employees are unhappy. We understand that and I would emphasise that our HR department is calling every single person to discuss the matter.

"This is a deeply troubling time for everybody and there will be those whose individual circumstances make it difficult to return."

The spokesman said Walkers' rivals had continued to operate, adding that the Scottish government regarded the food industry as "vital and that as long as strict health protocols are in place, work can continue".