MRCI report on meat plants: ‘Unfortunately, none of this information surprises SIPTU’

Representatives of trade union SIPTU have called on the government to immediately introduce key changes relating to workplace safety in the meat processing industry.

This follows the publication of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) report ‘Working to the bone: The experiences of migrant workers in the meat sector in Ireland’, which draws on the results of a survey conducted with 151 workers from the meat processing sector in Ireland.

Also Read: Meat workers operating in ‘dangerous conditions’ – MRCI report

SIPTU representatives say this report reveals a “systemic culture” of dangerous working conditions in the sector.

SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis said the report’s findings are “truly shocking”.

“It reveals a sector where low pay, poor terms and conditions and a disgraceful health and safety record are the norm,” he said.

“Almost 60% of the migrant workers surveyed for the report said they had been injured at work. They further explained that these injuries occur because of faulty tools or machinery, a lack of adequate health and safety training, a lack of protective measures or equipment, exposure to toxic chemicals and high noise levels.

Unfortunately, none of this information surprises SIPTU representatives. We have been highlighting the need to immediately address these issues for many years. We reiterated the urgent need for action in March 2020, with the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The need to address safety issues in the industry [was] also the basis of our submission and oral evidence given to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response concerning safety within the meat processing industry in August.”

SIPTU is calling on the government to implement the key recommendations relating to the meat processing sector made by the Oireachtas committee.

“These include mandatory sick pay for all workers in the industry and that its provision should be linked to any future work permits being granted to migrant workers,” Ennis continued.

“The committee also endorsed the SIPTU proposal that Covid-19 compliance officers should be introduced to the sector.

The importance of workers in the meat processing industry must be recognised through decent pay, terms and conditions of employment and making health and safety paramount.

“A focus on these measures must replace the unbridled drive for turnover and profit, often at the expense of workers, which currently dominates the sector.”