‘Whole meat industry is going down the tubes’ – SIPTU

Following on from Meat Industry Ireland’s (MII) announcement yesterday, Tuesday, September 10, that some 3,000 staff would be laid off from meat plants across the country, one of the country’s leading trade unions has issued a stark warning.

Teresa Hannick, from the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) was speaking on Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1 when she said: “Over 10,000 people work in the meat industry across Ireland, and this whole industry is going down the tubes unless someone comes in here to try and resolve this issue.”

Hannick, the manufacturing division organiser for SIPTU, also spoke about the apparent unwillingness of the processors to speak to the union – as well as the difficult conditions for staff at the plants.

We haven’t had direct talks with the plants. We wrote to MII asking to speak to them. This organisation is refusing to speak to us, refusing to speak to farmers.

“Yet, [MII] today can make a momentary notice of laying off 3,000 people – 3,000 of the most low paid workers in this country, suffering precarious work for years,” said Hannick.

She added that the last number of weeks have been “a nightmare” for factory staff, and that there was no definite indication as to how long the period of temporary layoffs will last.

Despite workers apparently being told they can apply for social welfare, Hannick highlighted that this is not a workable solution for many meat plant employees.

There are a lot of people working in these processing plants that came in under the work permits that were introduced, which are employer specific work permits – [the workers] are not entitled to get social welfare or entitled to look for another job.

“The meat industry wont talk to us. We wrote to MII asking to speak to them about the situation, that these lay-offs couldn’t continue,” Hannick continued.

During the RTÉ interview, she outlined some of the steps that have been taken to mitigate the impact on factory workers.

“For the past couple of weeks, in different plants, we have been working with the meat processors to mitigate some of these losses by our members using annual leave, or working in different areas of the plant, but it can’t continue,” said Hannick.

If the products aren’t there to go out, there’s no work for people.

She highlighted that it was the view of SIPTU that the farmer protests were legitimate, and that “the Minister for Agriculture needs to get involved in this to bring people to the table”.

“It’s well within his remit to bring people to the table. People have to talk. We’re going to see people out there, they have no income at all, they have no way to feed their children or pay their bills,” concluded Hannick.