Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly, has said that pleas from the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, for people not to apportion blame over Covid-19 outbreaks at meat factories is a self-serving cry for people not to blame government.
Speaking today, Teachta O’Reilly said: “There have been constant warnings to the government from workers, trade unions and politicians about the difficulties Covid-19 presents for workers in meat plants.
“This is because of poor working conditions, poor workers’ rights protections, no sick pay, a lack of inspections and oversight of working conditions by the Health and Safety Authority, and a lack of adherence to recommended health and safety criteria by some factories.
“We all know that there will be instances of Covid-19 in workplaces, but the necessary precautions to minimise outbreaks and prevent clusters have not been enforced by the government.
“What we have witnessed in meat plants, and across a variety of sectors of the economy, has been the usual hands-off approach to workers’ rights from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.
“This is not good enough – workers in food and meat-processing plants need action to protect their health all of the time, not just in times of crisis.
“We welcome the agreement SIPTU says it has agreed with representatives of the meat industry for a new system of rapid Covid-19 testing for meat factory workers.
“But trade unions and workers should not have been left to fight this battle by themselves while the government attempted to take a back seat.
“We need to get to the root cause of what is happening in meat and food processing facilities to understand what caused these clusters and make sure that the lessons from this are learned.
“The default response of the government for people not to apportion blame over the outbreaks of Covid-19 at meat plants is nothing but a self-serving cry for people not to blame them.
“There are very real failures here, which need to be called out in order to tackle the root cause of these issues, now and into the future. Only those who are guilty do not like blame being apportioned.”