Muslim Prayer dispute: Representatives for workers negotiating with company to allow back 190 terminated Cargill employees to work

5A---Muslim Prayer dispute: Representatives for workers negotiating with company to allow back 190 terminated Cargill employees to work

Around 190 employees in Colorado have been laid off over Muslim prayer protest. Cargill Meat Solutions said Thursday that it has made efforts to resolve a workplace prayer dispute with Somali workers at its Fort Morgan meatpacking plant, but resulted into firing of around 190 workers.

The company officials were sorting out the matter with the representatives for the workers, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The dispute centers on the time of day at which workers can pray which keeps on changing with seasons in the Muslim faith.

Majority of the workers, who have been fired are mostly immigrants from Somalia. They were terminated after they did not report to work for three consecutive days last week in order to protest what they say were changes in times allowed for Muslim prayer.

The company has said that it tries to make every ‘reasonable attempt’ to provide religious accommodation for all of its employees at the Fort Morgan plant without affecting the operations. Michael Martin, a spokesman for the Wichita-based company, said, “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 mischaracterized”.

Though attempt is made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed every day and depends on changing factors in the plant, affirmed Martin, who also said that the same has been cleared to its employees.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, representing more than 100 of the fired employees, said that plant supervisors has not always been very clear. CAIR spokesman Jaylani Hussein said that on December 18, the workers were said that if they want to pray then they should go home.

Since 2009, Cargill has provided a reflection room at the plant where observant Muslim workers can pray. Depending on the season, the workers pray at different times of the day and take 5 to 10 minutes and the time is cut from their 15-moinute break period or the workers’ unpaid 30-minute lunch breaks.

On December 23, Cargill terminated the hold-out workers, who did not return to work, citing company policy that those who would not report to work for three consecutive days will be terminated. All of the terminated employees work in the second shift on the plant’s fabrication floor.

CAIR continues to talk with Cargill, which has policy that terminated workers cannot reapply for the position for six months, hoping the six-month freeze is waived and the workers will be allowed back.





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