Agency workers: ‘There’s up to 30 of them living in a house’ – Mattie McGrath

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has described what he called the “awful living conditions” of some food processing plant “agency workers”.

The Co. Tipperary TD told AgriLand that he believes the living conditions of agency workers are having an impact on the spread of the virus.

“It’s when they [workers] go home – there’s up to 30 of them living in a house,” deputy McGrath said.

The agencies bring workers here [to Ireland] and then they drop them. They abandon them here with no rights, no sick pay and awful living conditions.

“These agencies must come under scrutiny. They must take responsibility for their behaviour and the welfare of these workers. They barely have human rights.

“The agencies can no longer hide. They must be brought to account; we cannot have them profiting from the unfair treatment of workers which has also now led to a national health threat,” McGrath concluded.

‘Agency workers always have worse conditions’

SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis said that he believes there are “seven or eight” agencies involved in providing workers for the meat industry, with around 30% of the overall workforce employed through agencies.

Nora Labo of the Independent Workers Union said that “agency workers always have worse conditions than those who are directly employed”.

Speaking at the meeting of the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response last week, Labo said that agencies “regularly pay people less and offer worse conditions if they can get away with it”.

Each factory might work with one agency but throughout the sector there are agencies that provide workers and source them from different places. I mostly know about workers sourced from eastern Europe; there are also agencies that bring in workers from Brazil.

Labo said that while “these agencies are based in Ireland” there was an agency “working through its Polish subsidiary, [in which] the workers were hired and were always in close contact with the agency’s Irish staff”.