Derry and Strabane People Before Profit Cllr Shaun Harkin said,
“I visited local meat plants with People Before Profit members to encourage workers to join a trade union and to make sure they are aware of their right to safe working conditions.
These are essential workers but are often paid minimum wage for gruelling work and treated as disposable. Many employers are making tremendous profits while taking advantage of the large proportion of migrant workers in the industry. Workers with Covid-19 symptoms or who have been exposed have felt pressured to work. It’s a totally unjust and unacceptable situation.
Immediate action is needed to protect workers health and safety in all meat industry plants. North and South, hundreds of workers have been infected with Covid-19. A Moy Park worker has died from the virus and many others have been made sick.
Globally meat plants have been hotspots for the spread of the virus because of the lack of safety measures and the harsh production regimes imposed on workers.
Workers have the legal right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions and can walkout. Workers at Moy Park and ABP Lurgan walked out of work to demand the implementation of public health guidelines.
Foyle Meats Omagh workers have refused to work in unsafe conditions and initiated legal action to force factory bosses to make their health and safety a priority.
Workers can contact the Health and Safety Executive on 03007906787 to request a workplace inspection.
We fully support these actions and back trade union calls for plants to be shutdown so all workers can be tested.
By ignoring trade union demands to intervene the Stormont Executive and Varadkar’s government have aided the Covid-19 crisis in many workplaces in the industry. The political establishment is completely unwilling to challenge the meat industry barons even while workers lives are put at risk.
Now’s the time to stand in solidarity with workers by exposing the risks they face and by demanding action from those with responsibilities. Trade unions are the key to giving workers a voice across the sector to demand health and safety measures and better pay. We encourage workers facing unsafe conditions to take action and to join a trade union today.”