Letter to the editor: Answers needed to ‘build trust’ in the meat processing industry

I am requesting that Meat Industry Ireland [MII] confirms that all current employees in the meat processing industry were recruited as per EU employment regulations.

Can it also quantify the current number of employees in the meat processing industry who are originally from countries outside the EEA [European Economic Area].

And, finally, can it confirm that the correct EU protocols were adhered to when recruiting those employees. Were such employee roles offered to citizens within the EEA?

I am also requesting that SIPTU confirms that all correct EU protocols – in accordance with EU employment legislation – were adhered to when recruiting people currently employed in the meat processing industry from outside the EEA.

Such assurances – from MII and SIPTU – on this pressing matter would be another step towards transparency and the building of trust in the wider meat industry.

From Martin McGarry, farmer, Co. Sligo

‘Undocumented workers in the sector’

Concerns surrounding the recruiting of workers in this sector come on the back of comments from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), which said that there are “definitely undocumented workers in the meat sector who may not have access to a PPSN [Personal Public Service Number]”.

Also Read: ‘Definitely undocumented workers in meat sector who may not have a PPS number’ – Migrant Rights Centre

Following concerns raised by SIPTU over sick pay for workers in meat factories in Ireland, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has said that, under its department, all workers are entitled to claim the Covid-19 Illness Benefit payment, irrelevant as to whether a company has a sick pay scheme or not.

However, to be eligible for payments workers need to have a PPSN and make Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions (in their own name).

Also Read: Meat factory workers ‘entitled to Covid-19 illness payment’ but must have PPSN and PRSI contributions

Edel McGinley, MRCI director, told AgriLand that she believes there “are definitely undocumented workers in meat factories without access to a PPSN”.

There is still a concern and an issue also around bogus self-employment and workers who may be forced to be self-employed and not being direct employees of companies.

“The MRCI is very concerned about these types of practices,” McGinley said.

“It’s an industry that’s rife with exploitation, abuse and harassment. I am calling on Minister [for Agriculture] Dara Calleary to set up a group to look at conditions for workers in the sector.”