Meat industry taskforce needed to ‘prevent disastrous situation’

There have been calls for the formation of a collective taskforce of meat industry stakeholders to fight the growing problem of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat plants.

Trade Union SIPTU said that there are now over 600 cases of Covid-19 across meat plants in the country.

Greg Ennis, SIPTU manufacturing division organiser, said there is an “urgent need for a taskforce involving all meat industry stakeholders to be set up by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine”.

A sector specific strategy is long overdue for the meat industry to tackle the threat posed by Covid-19.

“Workers in meat plants are employed in close proximity to each other and this has almost certainly been a conduit for the spread of the virus,” Ennis highlighted.

He continued: “The living conditions of the many low-paid workers in the industry is another contributory factor.”

The SIPTU organiser argued that the meat industry needs a “tailored” collective approach, “encompassing elements of the recently agreed ‘Return to Work Protocol’ and other additional measures”.

This must be done to “prevent a potentially disastrous situation emerging in plants across the country”, he insisted.

“The meat industry has become another front line in the fight against the virus and must be prioritised,” Ennis stressed.

He called on Minister Michael Creed to establish a taskforce “to counter this serious threat to workers, their families and their communities”.

Separately, Ennis confirmed to AgriLand that, as of yesterday, 15 employees at meat plants have been hospitalised with Covid-19.

Clusters

The issue of Covid-19 clusters in meat plants has recently become a serious topic for discussion.

Earlier today, Friday, May 15, a leading farm organisation called for a “coordinated approach” to the situation.

Pat McCormack, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), said that, as an essential service delivering high-quality food on a daily basis to consumers, priority testing and other supports should be made available to meat processing facilities to address any issues arising.

McCormack said that it was imperative that the Health Service Executive (HSE) and other state agencies fully support the sector to manage its way through the current challenges.