News & Media

Urgent action needed to protect workers at meat factories

6 August 2020

Statement by Duncan Smith TD
Party Whip and Spokesperson on Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport.
Duncan Smith

-Minister must establish a working group

Urgent action including the established of a working group to investigate the industry needs to be taken to protect workers at meat factories according to Duncan Smith, Labour Representative on the Oireachtas Covid-19 Response Committee. 


Deputy Smith was commenting after it was revealed that four food processing plants in Naas, Tullamore, Kildare and Timahoe are responsible for a significant volume of the increased number of Covid cases. 


Deputy Smith said: 


“When Meat Industry Ireland came before the Oireachtas Covid Committee they stonewalled by repeatedly insisting that their factories were safe and that they had adequate safety measures in place. However, the outbreak of a second wave of clusters in meat factories highlights how meat factories remain very dangerous for workers.

“Migrant workers are being routinely exploited in our meat and growing industries. When I raised this with the former Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, he took a defensive tone and dismissed the frightening data and testimony gathered by the Migrant Rights Centre about working conditions at meat processing plants as an ‘opinion’. The re-emergence of a significant number of Covid cases in the meat processing industry shows that the dire situation presented by MRCI was and remains entirely accurate.


“I asked his successor, the now former Minister Barry Cowen to tackle the issue four weeks ago and the Government sat on their hands and did nothing. These vulnerable workers have been abandoned, they have inadequate PPE and sanitation facilities, and many are living in overcrowded and unsuitable


“I am calling on Minister Calleary to set up a working group with officials from his Department, Trade Unions, Advocacy Groups and the HSE to examine the conditions of migrant workers in the agricultural sector. Migrant workers deserve fair pay and working conditions, access to Trade Unions, secure housing and healthcare.

“The Government have turned a blind eye to the systemic worker exploitation in the food and growing industry. This is an industry worth €2.45 billion and is controlled by very few. We cannot rely on the word of Meat Industry Ireland to keep migrant workers safe, there must be accountability.