SIPTU has welcomed a garda-led operation targeting the employment of illegal immigrants at a meat factory.

The trade union is hopeful that the development will lead to further investigations into the meat processing industry.

In a statement, An Garda Siochána confirmed that a “multi-agency operation” took place at “a commercial premises” in Co. Meath last Wednesday (June 8).

The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) along with officials from the Department of Social Protection and Work Relations Commission were involved in the search operation.

The Garda National Drugs Organised Crime Bureau; Garda National Protective Services Bureau; Garda National Economic Crime Bureau; Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau; and DMR Roads Policing also took part.

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According to Gardaí the operation focused on identifying offences relating to the employment of illegal immigrants.

It is part of a wider investigation into human trafficking, targeting those involved in facilitating illegal immigration into Ireland.

In the course of the operation, a significant number of people working at the premises were identified as being illegally present in the state and working in breach of the Employment Permits Act due to having fraudulent documentation.

“All persons present were interviewed and a number of fraudulent documents were seized, along with personnel files and mobile phones,” gardaí explained.

As a result of intelliegence gathered during the operation, officers searched a nearby house and a number of items, including electronic devices and fraudulent European identification documents, were seized.

Gardaí said that over 40 personnel were involved in the search operations including interpreters and document examiners. They added that the investigation is ongoing.


Manufacturing divisional organiser with SIPTU, Greg Ennis, told Agriland that he had “some sense of relief” when he heard about the garda-led operation.

“While what has been uncovered there is truly shocking, it’s not surprising to me because I and others before me for many years have believed that there has been exploitation taking place within the meat processing industry in Ireland.

“This would have manifested itself throughout the pandemic where a significant number of those workers contracted Covid-19,” he stated.

The SIPTU official said that “gross exploitation” of workers should not be tolerated anywhere in the country.

“We have a situation where workers are coming to me and other people in the trade union movement, looking for advice, looking for information, but yet in some cases are fearful of joining the trade union because they feel there may be retribution.

“That’s a terrible indictment in this country that we still don’t have a legal right to collective bargaining in the state,” he said.

“If a worker joins my trade union tomorrow, I can’t guarantee that I can advocate on their behalf because the employer does not have to recognise me.

“It’s something that has to be addressed once and for all. I think if we have that, it will help assist these workers because they need a voice and at the moment, they don’t have one,” Ennis added.

Around 15,600 workers are employed in the meat processing industry on the island of Ireland. SIPTU has 6,280 members, mainly in the red and white-meat processing industry.

“The trade union density is not as high as it should be. But I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there is a very high percentage now of migrant labour and non-Irish labour working in the Irish meat-processing industry,” Ennis commented.

The SIPTU official claimed that he has come across some “horrendous” living standards in the past two years, “under the spotlight of Covid-19”.

This included 20 or 30 people living in a house and the practice of “hotbedding” where workers on alternating shifts use the same bed to sleep.

The union has called for a government review of the agencies who supply labour to the meat industry and for a proper standard of terms and conditions to be developed for workers.