Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats spokesperson on Agriculture, said that today’s revelations that workers in a meat plant were charged for personal protection equipment (PPE) further highlights the need for a taskforce for the sector.

Holly said:

“Today we learned that one of the country’s largest chicken processors is not only charging staff for PPE, but they have actually come out to defend it, saying the money will be refunded after 12 weeks. This is a serious health and safety issue and there should be no circumstances under which employees are expected to pay for PPE.

“This is a new low for an industry that has an appalling record for the way it treats workers and farmers.

“In July, at the Dáil Covid Committee, I specifically asked representatives of Meat Industry Ireland who was paying for PPE, and they assured me that it was the factories themselves.

“Let us not forget there have been over 1,500 cases and more than 30 clusters associated with meat plants to date, with some clusters currently active.

“Despite endless assurances from the industry and the Government, little is changing. Entire counties were put back into lockdown but the plants where the clusters were located were not closed. How does that make sense?

“In recent years the poor treatment of farmers by the meat industry has rightly been highlighted. Now we are seeing disgraceful conditions for workers in these factories.

“Many of these plants don’t offer sick pay which leaves workers with a choice between going to work with a symptom of Covid or not getting paid. The sector is refusing to engage in an industry-wide agreement on sick pay during this pandemic.

“I have been calling for a taskforce to review the meat processing industry for months at this stage. The scale of Covid-19 outbreaks has illustrated massive underlying issues in this sector.

“This latest development clearly shows that a taskforce for the industry is needed more than ever.”

September 24, 2020

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