Livingston Tesco warehouse worker claims seagull stuck inside building for 'over a week' was pecking into food boxes - including some containing fresh meat

A staff member at a Tesco distribution centre in Livingston claims a seagull was stuck in the warehouse for more than a week and was seen pecking into boxes of food - including some containing fresh meat - in order to survive.

An order picker at the store, who did not want to be named, said when they told a manager last week about it they said they were aware of the issue, and days later a hawk was brought in to try and scare the bird out - but the seagull just flew around aimlessly.

The worker said they did not know how the seagull was eventually removed from the Carnegie Road facility, which supplies more than 300 Tesco stores across Scotland, North-East England and Northern Ireland.

The worker, who was unable to take a picture of the bird as no phones are allowed inside, said: "If it's been in there for a week then it's had to feed on something. It is a public health issue because it could be carrying any sort of disease.

The worker said a number of staff colleagues saw the seagull pecking into boxes containing food in the warehouse. Pic: miroslavmisvia/Shutterstock

"There is a protocol to report it and I did report it and my manager just said 'it's been in there for over a week.'

"Some of the boxes (which were allegedly pecked) could have gone out to the sites because they go into cages which are numbered for different stores and these are not always properly checked because people are working so fast."

A Tesco spokesperson said: "The safety of our customers is always our priority and we have rigorous hygiene standards throughout our distribution network to ensure that food sold to customers is safe to eat.

"We recently removed a bird that had found itself in our Livingston distribution centre, and following an assessment of our processes we are confident that food safety was not compromised."

'Break the rules and hit targets'

It comes after another worker at the site raised concerns with the Edinburgh Evening News about order pickers being pressured to meet performance targets, which they say is difficult to achieve without breaching social distancing rules as usually workers need to squeeze past others in "cramped" aisles.

Speaking the Evening News today, another order picker said one of his colleagues had been pulled aside by a supervisor recently and told they might have to go onto a performance plan - where targets are reviewed weekly - if they did not pick up the pace.

This worker claims that restrictions at the site have been eased too much through phase three of the Scottish Government's 'route map' out of lockdown, with managers expecting much more despite Covid-19 cases rising across Scotland in recent weeks.

Four workers - 0.2 percent of staff - at the distribution centre have already tested positive for Covid-19 and these people, as well as close contacts, have been self-isolating.

A Tesco spokesperson said they have been working closely with the union and health and safety representatives and that measures are in place to ensure workers stay two metres apart throughout the centre and that hand-sanitiser, masks, gloves and visors are available to all staff who want them.

Social distancing floor markings are used and shift times are staggered to minimise the number of people starting and finishing shifts at the same time.

Equipment in the centre is also cleaned regularly and anti-bacterial wipes are available for colleagues to clean equipment.

But the worker concerned wants to see stronger enforcement of hygiene measures and an allowance for social distancing in relation to performance, as well as consideration given to regular testing for staff there. He stressed the facility is a huge employer in West Lothian and supplies the whole of Scotland, which would make it a big issue if the workforce was ever hit with a bigger outbreak.

He claims the pressure to hit performance targets is also creating a "lot of fear" amongst workers because people are split between their health and maintaining an income from their job, with sick pay being significantly less.

He added: "It's a case of either breaking the rules and hitting targets or keeping yourself safe and not hitting targets.

"I would just ask that they don't relax the safety measures that are in place - they are better being safe than sorry. If they relax them too much then there is more risk of people getting sick. They are trying to get people working faster and keep on track with targets but if half the workforce gets taken out, they will be in a deeper hole."

The worker also claimed there is not enough effort made to sanitise buttons used to operate machines which take down pallets of produce from a height, and he suggested about 50 people could be using them in any one shift.

Both workers who spoke to us this week also claimed they only learned about the small outbreak at the facility after reading it in the Edinburgh Evening News and believe they should have been made aware by their managers prior.

A Tesco spokesperson said previously that a small number of staff tested positive for Covid-19 and are self-isolating and that their close contacts have been informed, as have all colleagues at the distribution centre.

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