‘It’s all just for show’: Meat plant workers speak out about workplace safety measures

Meat plant workers have spoken out about the Covid-19 safety measures that have been put in place in their workplaces, saying that “it’s all just for show”.

Speaking to Brian O’Connell for RTÉ Radio 1, three workers, who were not identified and spoke through a translator, revealed what it has apparently been like in their workplaces during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking about the measures that were put in place to try and prevent the spread of the virus, a worker said:

“They [factory management] put plastic barriers between the workers, [asked] us to wear masks and gloves and sanitise our hands.

“Even with the measures, we still don’t feel safe.

At the beginning, they didn’t do anything except put up plastic barriers and then, after awhile, they gave each worker one mask.

“I had to go and buy a big bag of masks – otherwise, I would have to wear the same mask every day.

“I don’t feel safe – a virus is a virus.”

‘It seems that it’s all just for show’

Saying that workers are “constantly worried about Covid even though there are plastic barriers”, they are “always too close to each other” in the factory.

“They put us all together on a collective transport – taxi – to work, with workers from all over the place.

“In the company itself, there were the small measures put in place, but nothing really changed.

It seems that it’s all just for show.

The worker said that the measures in place in the factory are “no good”, as workers “end up getting in contact with each other either way”.

“There is no way to be apart really. If you need to push the cattle around, you need two people to do that and do it together.

“There are two separate production lines for two different areas of the factory, but we [workers] will get to the changing room at the same time and there are a lot of people together so we’ll end up in contact with everyone at some stage.

There is a piece of uniform which workers are made to share; we have to put it on to do a certain job. It doesn’t get washed. If someone has the virus, it stays there [on the clothing] and someone else has to wear it again.

“In terms of the dining hall, [it] is always overcrowded, so they [management] made some extra areas to spread the workers but those areas are also overcrowded.

“With a suspected case of Covid-19, everyone who lives in the same house together is made stay home but those people are not paid.

“Every day they check our temperatures but we only got tested once when the pandemic began and we never got tested again.”

The worker added: “While production is still going, you can never be safe.”