Limerick Senator has beef with meat industry

LIMERICK Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called for urgent action to tackle the Covid-19 crisis unfolding in meat factories across Ireland.

The Castleconnell-based politician pointed to poor working conditions as leading directly to Coronavirus outbreaks in plants across the country.

Senator Gavan has also called on Meat Industry Ireland to engage with trade unions to delivery urgently needed radical reform to combat the spread of the virus.

Hundreds of Covid-19 cases have been identified in Kildare, Laois and Offaly in recent weeks, with many directly linked to meat factories across the region.

“We need to understand why this sector is so prone to outbreaks of Covid-19. I believe it’s not only linked to the close proximity of workers in these factories, but is also as a result of the very low rates of pay which sees many workers sharing cars to work and also sharing accommodation,” Senator Gavan commented.

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He went onto say that the vast majority of workers in these factories have no recourse to sick pay, making it more likely that they will go to work even if they are feeling unwell, as they have no other means of supporting themselves or their families.

“At the heart of all of this is the fact that most workers are paid just a little above the minimum wage in what is a very profitable industry.

“I support calls for Meat Industry Ireland to ensure there is blanket testing for Covid-19 taking place at all plants throughout the country, but much more needs to be done. A good start would be for Meat Industry Ireland to recommend to its members that they engage with trade unions.

“Too many factories have policies of outright hostility to trade unions and this is just not acceptable. Union officials must be able to access meat factories to monitor health and safety compliance; this role is more important now than ever in the midst of this pandemic,” he concluded.