62% of migrant meat plant workers say they have felt discriminated against

62% of meat plant workers said they have felt discriminated against, according to new data published by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI).

The report, ‘Working to the bone: The experiences of migrant workers in the meat sector in Ireland’, draws on the results of a survey conducted with 151 workers from the meat processing sector in Ireland.

Also Read: Meat workers operating in ‘dangerous conditions’ – MRCI report

MRCI said that for many meat factory workers, this was the first time they have spoken out about “the conditions they are facing”.

‘We suffer racism and discrimination’

A respondent told MRCI that workers suffer racism and discrimination, and that “all of the time, we are forced to do the worst and heaviest work because we are migrants and don’t have access to rights and because we don’t speak English”.

With regards to discrimination, 62% of respondents said they have felt discriminated against, with the majority citing nationality and race/ethnic background as the reason. Several also mentioned that they felt discriminated against on their gender, age, and religion.

61% did not report this, with 19% stating they felt “too afraid” to raise concerns. 96% felt their employer “did not take any action after it was reported”.

The report states: “This indicates that systemic racism is prevalent in this sector. As we have seen across the world, racism has a devastating impact on people’s lives and has no place at work. Everyone should have the right to live and work free from fear and oppression.”

When asked if people had felt bullied at work, 43% said they felt verbally bullied, 11% felt physically bullied, 18% felt socially bullied and 35% felt psychologically bullied. Of those who felt bullied, 63% did not report it, with 26% stating that they were too afraid to raise their concerns.

Of the 37% that did report it, a staggering 96% said their employer did not take effective action.

Migrant workforce in this sector accounts for 59%

Census data from 2016 shows 12,413 people are employed in meat production, processing and preserving of meat.

52% are Irish nationals and 42% are migrant workers. Combining 2016 data and employment permits data reveals a total number of 15,795 workers in this sector, according to MRCI.

The data shows the migrant workforce in this sector accounts for 59%. Of this, 56% are EU workers and 44% are non-EU workers. 21% of the workforce are on employment permits. These figures will most likely not include undocumented migrants who also work in this sector.

The main nationalities are Botswanan, Brazilian, Chinese, Filipino, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldovan, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, South African and Ukrainian.