Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has described as unacceptable the government’s ongoing failure to address Covid-19 risks at meat plants.
Teachta Carthy accused the government of adopting a hands-off approach to meat factories despite the evidence that they have been the source of a considerable number of outbreaks.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Since the outset of this pandemic, meat processing plants have been identified as a particularly high risk and they have been the source of numerous outbreaks in all parts of the country. We know that these outbreaks have had a considerable impact in accelerating wider community transmission.
“This government has consistently shown itself to be unwilling to tackle the risk posed by the sector. The Oireachtas Special Covid Committee heard repeatedly from workers’ representatives as to their fears.
“Since then, the government has failed to implement a number of key recommendations of the committee, including making Covid a notifiable disease under health and safety regulations, or introducing a statutory sick pay scheme to help protect those workers.
“In the past number of months through answers to parliamentary questions, we have learned that the response of government to public health advice regarding meat plants has been perilously slow. The recent outbreaks suggest that rolling testing in these plants is not occurring at a sufficient level.
“In July, an NPHET-commissioned report Investigation into a Series of Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants in Ireland 2020 made a number of recommendations that government were painfully slow to act upon.
“For example, it was advised that ‘environmental sampling’ be carried out at plants at which there were future outbreaks, yet up until mid-December this had only occurred at a single plant.
“Since then, the government have refused to release the report’s findings due to it being ‘commercially sensitive’ – despite indicating that it was shared with other meat processing plants!
“Successive governments have allowed meat processors a free hand in their operations, at great cost to workers and farmers.
“That this government have applied the same hands-off approach in the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency is unacceptable. That approach must now change.”