MII ‘agrees Covid-19 protocol on staff safety’ with SIPTU

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said it has reached agreement with trade union SIPTU on a detailed code of practice to protect staff in the meat processing industry from Covid-19.

MII and SIPTU agreed on a national charter this afternoon (Friday, September 18).

This comes after ongoing serial testing throughout the sector shows a “low positivity rate of 0.3%”, according to MII.

In a statement on the matter, MII said:

“The code of practice formalises the existing suite of measures in place in members’ processing facilities that have played an important role in delivering the sharp reduction in the number of cases and clusters in meat plants. It underpins the existing HSE specific guidance for the meat processing sector.

“The code harmonises separate proposals put forward by SIPTU and MII, drawing on a large area of common ground in both organisations’ approach to employee safety.

The HSE serial testing programme continues in meat processing facilities nationwide. The results are very encouraging and point to a low level of incidence of the virus. Latest information from the HSE on the comprehensive testing regime is that the positivity rate is 0.3%.

“This demonstrates that the comprehensive protocols and mitigation measures in place in processing facilities across the country are working. No other industrial work setting has had such a comprehensive screening test programme in place.”

Senior director of MII Cormac Healy added that the code formalises a “wide range of measures that have already been put in place and will provide reassurance that the industry is 100% committed to taking all appropriate steps to mitigate the risk posed by Covid-19″.

“The sharp reduction in clusters in meat plants and the low rate of positive test incidence shown by the ongoing serial testing is indicative that the efforts being made are working,” Healy said.

“However, there is no room for complacency. Given the wider community trends in Covid-19 cases, continued vigilance and rigorous enforcement of mitigation measures and testing, track and trace is essential.”

Only national charter agreed by a union with employers

Speaking after the meeting, SIPTU manufacturing division organiser, Greg Ennis, said the agreed protocol “is the only national charter agreed by a union in this country with employers to cover safety procedures and processes aimed at protecting workers from Covid-19 infection”.

He said:

“The protocol includes a commitment to maintaining serial testing of meat plant workforces, ongoing health screening, temperature testing, the mandatory use of appropriate personal protective equipment and stringent hygiene controls.

“It has been further agreed that joint employer/worker forums will be established at enterprise level to ensure full compliance with these measures and address other issues related to the Covid-19 crisis.

The fact that this protocol has been completed in conjunction with MII demonstrates there is a coherent approach by employers and workers’ representatives in the industry which places the health of workers, their families and the wider community as its main priority.

Speaking to AgriLand after the meeting today, Ennis said that, as expected by the union prior to meeting with MII, no progress was made on the issue of sick pay, but that SIPTU has a “number of sick pay agreements in place already with members of MII and we will engage at employer level to try and standardise that across the industry”.