Waterford meat plant staff ‘bused to work with standing room only’ – Doherty

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has claimed that staff at a Co. Waterford meat plant were being “bused to work” while there were confirmed cases of Covid-19 among some staff.

Speaking in the Dáil today (Thursday, September 17), Doherty said: “We learned of another outbreak in a meat plant in Waterford, and this is causing huge concern at this point in time.

“At least 28 cases are associated with this cluster. More tests are pending. Hopefully the HSE’s [Health Service Executive] infection control team is on the ground,” the Donegal TD said.

Local media have reported that, earlier this week, workers from the plant were being bused to work on board a packed 50-seater bus.

“Every seat was full [with] standing room only. People were standing in the aisle,” Doherty claimed.

“At that time there were already cases confirmed in that plant. That is shocking. The meat barons are playing with people’s lives in the interest of profit, plain and simple, and they are getting away with it,” he argued.

Doherty contrasted the situation around meat factories with the restrictions on pubs.

There were 6,800 inspections of pubs over one weekend. Yet there have only been five clusters associated with pubs.

“Yet outbreaks in meat plants have accounted for one-third of all workplace clusters,” Doherty highlighted.

The TD did not identify the plant during his speech.

Testing resumes

Serial testing in meat plants has resumed this week after being temporarily suspended last week in order to  meet the demand for testing nationally.

However, trade union SIPTU said it is still “gravely concerned” about the current capacity for testing.

Before serial Covid-19 testing was suspended last week, an average total of 751 tests were done in meat plants per day across Ireland, according to SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis.

Ennis said that along with his opinion that serial testing should continue on a weekly basis in plants until the virus is suppressed both in the community and workplace, the turnaround time for results needs to be within 24 hours, not between two and four days as Ennis said is currently the case.

“I still have grave reservations about the testing. When the serial testing commenced on August 21, they were testing, on average, 751 across the meat industry,” Ennis said.