Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) are deeply concerned at the serious outbreaks of new clusters of COVID-19 in meat factories across Kildare, Offaly and Laois and the inconsistent response from employers and government.
This is low-wage work – dirty, difficult, and dangerous – with a long history of health and safety violations. MRCI has received ongoing complaints from meat processing workers across Ireland since 26th March. The migrant workforce accounts for 58% of this sector, and are over-represented in positions on the factory floor.
Edel McGinley, MRCI Director said “It is not logical that a factory can run such labour intensive production at the same pace prior to the pandemic; it is not business as usual. It’s abhorrent that a plant would chose to stay open rather than protect its workers. It’s time that workers lives are valued more than profits”.
McGinley continued “Workers need to be paid additional money for the work they have been doing during this time. Not one worker has reported to us any bonus or wage increase for the hazardous work they are doing”.
Workers feared a backslide on health and safety measures in the workplace, with one worker expressing their concern to us in July, “If we have an outbreak of infection on the production line, then the consequences will be catastrophic for the entire region”.
McGinley concluded “We now need to put workers and public health at the heart of a national response. The current interim guidelines* are clearly not working. Enforcement of Health and Safety law and sanction’s must be a priority. New mandatory guidelines are needed, which include a reduction in production rates where necessary to protect workers and the community; immediate closure and deep clean for two weeks of all meat processing plants where workers have tested positive for COVID with workers on full pay in this period; and a phased re-opening with full involvement of the HSA and HSE.”
MRCI joins SIPTU in calling for decent pay for all workers, sick pay entitlements, rapid result testing for COVID 19 and regular and unannounced inspections at meat factories.
For further information contact:
Edel McGinley, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland: 087 748 5695
Notes to Editor
MRCI presented worker-generated evidence at the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 in July to raise both recent and historical concerns about the regulation of employment rights in this sector.
Of the workers MRCI has spoken to during the past six months:
- 90% do not have a company sick pay scheme
- 59% said they do not feel safe at work
- 24% do not have, or are not sure if they have, a contract of employment
- 57% have been injured in the workplace loss of limbs or digits; day-to-day lacerations; repeated injuries from faulty machines and falls; repetitive strain and back injuries. Furthermore workers have received not a single euro extra in hazardous pay for their work throughout the pandemic.
- 23% of these injuries went unreported
- 62% of workers do not know who the Health and Safety Officer is in their workplace
- 60% of workers felt they did not receive sufficient training for their roles when they started
- 85% said they do not feel valued at all
- 70% said they had been bullied at work