Representatives from trade union SIPTU and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) met today to discuss tackling the problem of Covid-19 clusters in meat plants around the country.

Topics covered included worker safety and continuing production among other talking points.

According to the trade union, Covid-19 test result turnarounds have to be quicker – and there should not be situations where workers are tested and return to work before they know their results.

Speaking to AgriLand, Greg Ennis, SIPTU manufacturing division organiser, said:

It was a very robust, frank exchange of views on what is a very serious issue in meat plants.

“It was predicted by SIPTU two months ago; they accept that, but it’s happened. We were right on this occasion unfortunately. I think we arrived at some conclusions.”

Ennis noted that SIPTU and MII agreed to approach the HSE in relation to Covid-19 testing within the sector with the principle objectives to support worker safety and the continuity of production or business.

“We’re looking for what I would call blanket testing across the organisations with an emphasis on speed and results in expeditious fashions.

Last week there were some cases of four days waiting on results – that’s not good enough.

In addition, SIPTU gave the MII representatives a copy of the SIPTU charter on Covid-19 within the meat industry, which the two sides discussed.

“Meat industry Ireland have agreed that they will bring that back to their members – the employers within the industry – the primary employers that they represent, and they will reconvene with SIPTU by the end of this month with a response to this SIPTU charter,” Ennis added.

The charter in question includes: issues involving pay; sick pay; terms and conditions; and payment for workers who are out of work because of Covid-19, the SIPTU official noted, as well as provision of personal protective equipment.

Underlining the severity of the situation, Ennis said:

There’s no point in the Minister of Health saying he’s speaking from a personal perspective on things. The HSE [Health Service Executive] and the HSA [Health and Safety Authority] in particular have to lead and deal with this.

“Scenarios where we believe workers are tested and then allowed back into the workplace only to find out four days later that they have Covid-19 – that’s not good enough,” he concluded.