Calls have been made by SIPTU this week for workers in the beef industry to be compensated for the loss of earnings they have suffered as a result of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) protests at beef processing plants.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Dunne, said many beef plant workers have lost two days’ pay this week as a result of the IFA’s 48-hour blockade of beef plants. He said this is in addition to one day’s pay lost as a result of a previous 24-hour IFA blockade.

“Workers should be compensated for their loss of earnings as a result of these blockades. SIPTU will be seeking to have our members compensated for their losses through discussions with employers.

“SIPTU is also contacting the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, seeking trade union representation on the Beef Forum. This would ensure that workers in the beef industry have their concerns heard. Representation on the Beef Forum would also be utilised to ensure that the issue of worker representation and their right to organise is resolved on an industry wide basis”, he said.

Dunne also added that many workers in the industry are surviving on minimum rates of pay while their terms and conditions have starkly declined since the onset of the recession in 2008.

He highlighted that several major employers in the industry also continue to resist any attempts by trade unions to organise and represent workers. He said this has resulted in a continuing decline in wages and conditions in the industry.

Dunne said while SIPTU members understand the position of producers and their attempt to get a fair price for their product there is concern that they are not treating the beef plant workers as partners in the industry.

“Those involved throughout the beef supply chain and retailers must accept they also have a responsibility to ensure that workers are fairly treated,” he said.

Speaking to The Irish Times on the issue IFA Treasurer Ger Bergin said the IFA has no dispute at all with those who work in the industry or there unions that represent them.

“But, the long-term viability of the jobs in the industry are going to be absolutely dependent on reasonable farm incomes so that numbers can be maintained,” he said.