Agri-food workers who pick, process, and pack our food are providing essential services during COVID19, and migrant workers are a huge part of this workforce.
Edel McGinley, Director of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) said, “Workers in agri-food factories across Ireland have told us they are worried about their ability to keep safe at work during this crisis. They have said they cannot adhere to physical distancing and are working shoulder to shoulder, taking breaks at the same time, without extra hygiene facilities.”
One factory worker said, “There is no social distancing in the canteen during breaks and no sanitizer available on the factory floor, plus staff are expected to share protective uniforms, for example, working overall coats”.
Greg Ennis, Divisional Organiser, SIPTU Manufacturing Division said “Safety for workers is paramount. SIPTU are calling on employers to ensure workers are fully protected and maintain their access to a safe working environment where physical distancing and proper hygiene facilities are in place”.
Yesterday, workers walked out of factories in Northern Ireland where their safety was at risk. If people need to be at work, they deserve to be safe. However it continues to remain unclear as to how essential work and workplaces are determined. This vacuum leaves some workers very vulnerable to risky and unsafe practices.
Edel McGinley continued “We are also concerned that some employers are intensifying their rate of production in anticipation of closure and are exposing workers to greater risk at this time. Any workplace that has not been directed to close by government is at risk of not receiving emergency subsidies. Staff who feel their safety is at risk but are not directed to stay at home may not be eligible either.”
MRCI is calling on Minister Humphries to provide clarification on essential workplaces, so that workplaces that must remain open can do so only as long as they operate in line with health and safety legislation and guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Contact Edel McGinley – 00353 (0) 877485695
Contact Greg Ennis – 00353 (0) 876776810