Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD have said that there is an immediate need to crack down on the light touch regulation which has made the meat processing sector the Wild West of the Irish economy.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Figures released to me by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment serve to underline the rampant abuses of employment law and workers’ rights in the meat processing sector.
“Data provided from the Department shows that nearly half of all inspections of meat processing plants between 2015-2020 uncovered breaches of employment law and workers’ rights; including inadequate record keeping, working time, pay and employment permit issues.
“Indeed, it was revealed that the inspections by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) recovered almost €184,000 in outstanding workers’ wages.
“The revelation is shocking but not surprising; however, it underlines the need to get serious about cracking down on the light touch regulation which has made the meat processing sector the Wild West of the Irish economy.
“I shudder to think what the workers in this sector endure when the inspectors leave and the spotlight shines elsewhere.”
Teachta Matt Carthy said:
“It is well known across the meat processing sector that the WRC does not have enough staff to police the industry, and unscrupulous employers exploit this – how else do you end up with a situation where nearly every second investigation finds breaches of employment law?
“This hands-off approach seems to permeate every aspect of government engagement with the meat processing sector, contrary to public health advice.
“The government has rejected calls from the National Outbreak Control Team to empower itself to shut down meat plants for deep cleaning when an outbreak arises.
“They have rejected calls for consistent rigorous scientific investigations into outbreaks.
“Perhaps most bizarrely of all, it gave a €100 million no-strings attached cheque to the sector at a time when farmers are crying out for support.
“Leo Varadkar recently told the Dáil that he does not know any beef barons. Workers and our farmers know them well. As Minister for Enterprise, the Tánaiste must make himself aware of the dubious practices within this sector that exploits both farmers and workers; and that during the pandemic put entire communities at risk.
“The time has long since passed for this exploitation in the meat processing industry to come to an end.”