Holly Cairns TD, the Social Democrats spokesperson for Agriculture and the Marine, has called for a task force to review the meat processing industry.
After hearing from representatives of the Migrants’ Rights Centre and Meat Industry Ireland, Deputy Cairns believes that the levels of uncertainty around the Covid clusters in some plants and concerns for workers’ rights demand an immediate and effective response.
She said: “The scale of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat processing plants illustrated underlying issues in this sector. We were all aware of the unsustainably low prices farmers received, and now we have a clearer picture of the conditions workers have to endure. For me and many others, these two things are intrinsically linked. They speak to how the industry treats people – workers and small suppliers.
“During the week, the German Agriculture Minister pointed out that low prices do not fit with sustainability. She linked low meat prices with pressures on animal welfare, working conditions in meat processing plants and farmers’ incomes. It’s obvious that there are clear parallels to be drawn here. It is large-scale meat plants that are the issue here – it’s not migrant workers, it’s not farmers. Small abattoirs are not experiencing the same issues. It seems the industrialisation of this sector has increased the vulnerabilities of most stakeholders.”
Deputy Cairns added: “Many TDs on the Committee share my concerns for the numerous issues that were raised today: workers left vulnerable due to immigration status, a lack of unannounced health and safety inspections, and conflicting information from workers’ representatives and Meat Industry Ireland. I have no doubt that there is a clear need for an investigation of this industry and its practices.”
10th July 2020