Meat plant worker: ‘While production is still going, you can never be safe’

A meat plant worker has said that while production continues in their workplace, they “can never be safe”.

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.

One such worker said that in their plant, “while production is still going, you can never be safe”.

Describing what it has been like in the plant, the worker said:

“In reality, when someone is sick or on holidays, the company’s goal of production doesn’t change.

“They expect the production to stay the same even though there are less workers, so we end up doing the work for workers that are gone.

“The company will never stop production and they will never send us home and pay us at the same time.

We have to take care of ourselves because they are not going to take care of us.

With no guarantee of sick pay, the worker said that “if we [workers] get Covid, we don’t know what would happen”.

‘They will never listen’

The worker said they have “thought” about making suggestions to management about putting measures in place to try and prevent the spread of the virus, but that “they will never listen; we are always in the wrong”.

“We avoid making suggestions to management: firstly, they never listen to our opinion; and secondly, we don’t speak their language so we’re discriminated on those terms.

“We ask for more workers to do certain types of work because we are overworked and actually need more bodies.

If you complain, they [management] say they’ll ‘get a plane full of other workers who will work for a fraction of what they pay you; if you’re not happy, you can pack your bags and go home’.

Saying that when the workers go home they’re “mentally and physically exhausted” due to the nature of the work – as it is “so hard and not meant to be done by just one person” – the human resources staff apparently give them the same response when workers complain:

“If you’re not happy, you can go home and we’ll get a plane full of other workers who will work for a fraction of what we pay you.”

‘They will fire us all’

The worker added that management “keep threatening to close the company”, leading to workers feeling threatened “that we won’t be paid if they close”.

“We can’t afford for the company to close and for us not to be paid – our lives go on and we have bills to pay.

“The only thing that could be done is if they closed and paid everyone, but I feel that would be impossible and would never happen – so I really feel like there is nothing that could be done.

“If they close their doors, they will fire us all and we will be sent home with nothing to show.”