200 Muslim meat-packers fired over prayer dispute

telegraph.co.uk -

Company terminates Somalian immigrants who walked out claiming not enough was being done to accommodate prayer times

Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado

Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado

Nearly 200 Muslim employees have been fired from a meat-packing plant after downing tools following a dispute over praying at work.

The workers, mostly Somalian immigrants, staged a walkout to protest what they said was insufficient accommodation of prayer time at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado.

The company has provided a "reflection room" for Muslim employees to pray since 2009 but the workers claimed there had been a change to the policy.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the workers had been treated in a "discriminatory manner" and told "If you want to pray, go home".

Jaylani Hussein, a council spokesman, said: "All of these employees are good employees and don't have any other issues. They feel missing their prayer is worse than losing their job. It's like losing a blessing from God."

The Muslim employeesThe Muslim employees  Photo: ABC 7 Denver

However, the company, an agribusiness giant that employs 155,000 people in 68 countries, said there had been a "misunderstanding" and its policy of allowing time for prayer had not changed.

A spokesman said plant managers met with the workers, members of the Somali community, and union leaders following the walk-out but were unable to resolve the issue.

The Muslim employeesThe Muslim employees  Photo: ABC 7 Denver

He said workers were warned that failing to show up for work three days in a row would jeopardise their employment. After 200 did so they were terminated.

The spokesman added: "Cargill makes every reasonable attempt to provide religious accommodations to all employees based on our ability to do so without disruption to our beef-processing business.

The work passes left by the Muslim employees The work passes left by the Muslim employees   Photo: ABC 7 Denver

"At no time did Cargill prevent people from prayer at Fort Morgan. Nor have we changed policies related to religious accommodation and attendance. This has been mischaracterised."

The spokesman told the Denver Post: "It's an unfortunate situation that may be based somewhere in a misunderstanding. There has been a desire among some employees to go in larger groups of people to pray.

"We just can't accommodate that. It backs up the flow of all the production. We have to ensure food safety. We have to ensure the products we produce meet consumer expectations."

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