190 Muslims fired after going on strike over being ‘denied a prayer break’ from meat packing factory

Workers had been using time from their unpaid 30-minute lunch break

Emma Henderson
Monday 04 January 2016 16:37 GMT
The firm said a reflection area for use by all employees to pray was established in 2009 (file pic)
The firm said a reflection area for use by all employees to pray was established in 2009 (file pic) (Getty Images)

Around 190 Muslim workers have reportedly been fired from a meat packing factory in Colorado after walking out in protest over a "ban" on prayers at work.

Staff at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado, were fired 10 days after the mass walk-out, according to the Denver Post.

More than 200 workers, who are mainly Muslims from Somalia, took part in the protest along with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who negotiated with the company on their behalf.

Some workers returned to work, but the majority were sacked, said Jaylani Hussein, a spokesman and executive director of CAIR.

Workers say Cargill changed its rules on allowing its staff to pray during shifts.

Previously, a few workers had been able to pray at different times of the day in the dedicated prayer room, in order to not slow down the process of the production line.

The five to 10 minutes allocated prayer time had been taken from workers’ unpaid 30 minute lunch break, according to the Denver Post.

But according to Mr Hussein, workers had recently been told: “If you want to pray, go home.”

Mr Hussein said the workers feel “missing their prayer is worse than losing their job".

Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado (Google Street View)

“It’s like losing a blessing from God,” he added.

In a statement, Cargill said: “In the Fort Morgan plant, a reflection area for use by all employees to pray was established in April 2009, and is available during work shifts based on our ability to adequately staff a given work area.”

Russia Today reported Cargill said it made the sackings after multiple attempts to discuss the situation with the employees.

Some of those who lost their jobs had worked at the factory for up to 10 years.

Cargill’s policy also states that any workers whose contract is terminated are unable to reapply for a job at the company for six months, although CAIR said it was in discussions with the company in the hope of persuading them to waiver this.

The company employs around 2,000 people, who are paid from $14 (£9.50) per hour.

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