Tyson Expands Better Workplace Efforts
Along with Tyson Foods' increasing focus on sustainable food production at scale, the Springdale, Ark.-based company is expanding efforts to create a better workplace at its production facilities.
“We believe sustainability is about continuous improvement and solutions that last, and this includes a healthier workplace,” said Noel White, COO at Tyson. “We’ve always been committed to supporting our employees and have sound workplace practices in place, but also want to do better. That’s why we’re taking steps that include expanding training, improving workplace safety and compensation, increasing transparency and helping workers with life skills.”
By investing in technology and practices to promote sustainability, Tyson aims to reduce waste and costs associated with it.
Tyson's workforce is made up of 114,000 employees, with more than 95,000 of them at the company’s U.S. production facilities, where its chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods products are produced.
Tyson said that one of its most important ongoing workplace efforts include its goal of zero worker injuries and illnesses, while striving to achieve a 15 percent year-over-year reduction in worker injuries and illnesses, along with increased training and saftey education. Speicifically, the firm plans to hire 25 or more poultry plant trainers, adding to the more than 260 trainers and 30 training coordinators the company has hired for its poultry business alone since 2015. Tyson also encourages its hourly workers to participate in its in-house plant safety councils, and also offfers a life skills program for workers it calls the Upward Academy.
Moreover, it put together a pilot compensation program at two poultry plants that involves significantly increasing base wages and shortening the time it takes new workers to move to higher wage rates. Tyson recently implemented pay increases at all poultry plants in November 2016 and millions of dollars in benefit improvements in January 2017. Additionally, to promote better transparency Tyson Foods said it is publicly sharing the results of third-party social compliance audits of Tyson plants. The company initiated this series of audits in fiscal 2015.
Doing Good With Food
Tyson added that its main purpose in implementing better practices is to "raise the world’s expectations for how much good food can do." To bolster its efforts, the company is collaborating with external organizations such as Oxfam America and the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). The labor union has 22 labor contracts with Tyson, representing more than 24,000 workers.
“Tyson Foods’ commitment to worker safety and worker rights should not just be applauded – it should serve as a model for the rest of the industry,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Through our ongoing partnership with Tyson Foods, we have already made valuable progress. We look forward to these new and expanded initiatives and to continuing to work together to provide a better, safer workplace for the hard-working men and women at Tyson Foods.”
Tyson Foods has also been working with the Cisneros Center for New Americans with its Upward Academy program. The program was developed by the company and the non-profit agency two years ago, and is designed to help immigrant workers with life skills to help them adapt to work in America. Upward Academy also offers both English as a Second Language and General Educational Development (GED) classes.
“We appreciate the leadership Tyson Foods has shown by investing in its workforce through programs like this,” said Nicolas Perilla of the Cisneros Center. “It’s fundamentally good for business and the community by helping new Americans be successful and feel at home. More companies should replicate this program.”
“We will use our reach, capabilities and resources to drive positive change," said CEO Tom Hayes, about Tyson's new undertaking. "Trade-offs will be minimized as we solve for healthier food, healthier animals, a healthier environment and a healthier workplace. All of these areas must advance together if we are to create a more sustainable system.”