MII ‘refusing to engage and negotiate’ on sick pay – SIPTU

Trade union SIPTU has said that Meat Industry Ireland (MII) is “refusing to engage and negotiate” on issues relating to sick pay for workers in meat plants.

Ahead of its next meeting with MII (Friday, September 18), SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis told AgriLand that although significant progress has been made on the SIPTU charter, a protocol outlining best practices to prevent the Covid-19 spread in meat factories, there remains issues to be resolved.

‘And that is regrettable’

A number of causes outlined in the protocol on which SIPTU has sought MII’s support on includes repeat blanket testing in two to three week cycles, along with adequate terms and conditions and sick pay.

“We’ve met with MII twice and made significant progress on the charter – and that protocol, I expect, will be agreed at our next meeting,” Ennis said.

“However, one element I believe will not be agreed is the issue pertaining to sick pay and terms and conditions of employment.

I believe this is because MII is refusing to engage and negotiate with SIPTU on that.

“And that is regrettable; because the terms and conditions are what we have already pointed out are key factors in the transmission of Covid-19 within the meat plants.”

95% of workers in the meat industry in Ireland do not have a sick pay scheme, according to SIPTU.

Ennis has described this as a socio-economic issue.

“Workers who may have a slight cough, or bit of a fever or sore throat, etc, cannot afford not to go to work unless they’re really ill. They are coming in. We’ve been saying this for a long time,” he continued.

“At the end of the day, it’s a socio-economic issue, because you’ve got the 95% with no sick pay, but you’ve also got people working just above the minimum wage in the meat industry in Ireland, and some on the minimum wage.”

SIPTU ‘appalled’ by decision to postpone blanket testing

Ennis also told AgriLand that he is “appalled and extremely concerned” by the decision to postpone serial Covid-19 testing in meat plants.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that testing at meat plants is to be postponed, apparently on a temporary basis.

Ennis said that he is “appalled” that there’s a cessation of testing, “for the reasons we [SIPTU] have been calling for repeat blanket testing for a number of months”.