The outbreak of Covid-19 in the meat plants is caused by the gross exploitation of workers.
Half of the workers are migrants, coming from Brazil, Poland, Lithuania, Romania and other countries.
Some are hired by agencies in these countries and are not registered for Irish social security. That means that if they get ill , they can claim no sickness benefit.
The government took two months after the first Covid-19 case was discovered before it issued protocol’s for health and safety. But there are few worker representatives because of an atmosphere of fear to make sure they are implemented.
Many of workers are hired via sub-contractors so that the main company does not have to take full responsibility of for their welfare.
A terrible consequence is that many workers do not have a sick pay scheme. This means that even when they fell ill, they are often forced to work.
This was bad enough before Covid-19 – but it is very dangerous now.
However, the situation can now be changed if we build up strong unions. Unions help workers in three main ways:
- They can push for an increase in wages. The meat plants owners are making big profits – they should be forced to pay decent wages.
- They can push for direct employment. They can ensure there are no ’roll over’ contracts which deny workers their legal rights.
- They can insist that every worker is covered by a sick pay scheme so that if they are ill, they still get paid.
People Before Profit is pushing for a change in the law to ban sub-contracting. In Germany, a special law has ben passed to ban sub-contracting in the meat industry because it is recognised as a danger to human health. We need these measures in Ireland.
People Before Profit has produced special leaflets for meat plant workers.