GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Managers at a JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Nebraska have changed their minds about allowing Muslim workers to take prayer breaks together.

Dan Hoppes, local president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, says managers at the plant told Muslim employees Thursday the new policy was ended. He reportedly said they took it calmly.

The plant had agreed to let Muslim workers take breaks for the fourth of their daily prayers at sunset after the workers walked off the job in protest. After the agreement, non-Muslim employees walked off the job in a counterprotest, saying the breaks for prayers were unfair to them.

About 2,500 people work at Swift's Grand Island plant, not counting managers. That includes about 500 Muslims who mostly work the second shift, employees said.

Plant managers have reportedly said they have been torn between wanting to accommodate reasonable needs and meeting operational requirements. Union stewards also find themselves stuck in the middle of the dispute.

It's difficult to work out a contract that's fair for everyone, said Hoppes. Religious rights are worth protecting, he said, but it's tough when you have so many different cultures.


Source: Associated Press