11 October 2020
BY Elaine Murphy
Holly Cairns (Cork South West TD), Social Democrats spokesperson for Agriculture, has welcomed the Special Covid Committee’s recommendation that other Dáil committees should examine serious ongoing issues in meat plants.
“I have been calling for a taskforce to examine conditions for workers in this sector for months so am glad that this report reflects the serious nature of the issues with meat plants.
“The Covid Committee’s final report states that a range of issues relating to workers’ rights should be reviewed by both the Oireachtas Agriculture and Health Committees.
“The outbreaks in this sector have seen some of the worst clusters, which have had serious impacts on workers and the local communities, resulting in entire counties being locked down.
“I welcome that the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment will be dealing with this matter. There is also an immediate obligation on the Oireachtas Agriculture and Health Committees to hold the industry to account.
“Submissions to the Covid Committee from workers’ organisations and unions revealed incredibly poor conditions and an oppressive culture that resulted in many employees being afraid to come forward.
“There is an urgent need for immediate reform of the sector. Unfortunately, the industry is still resisting calls for proper sick pay; they had to be pressured into negotiating with unions; and we have reports of some plants charging workers for vital PPE.
“The Agriculture Committee needs to bring representatives from the meat industry before them immediately. It’s vital that there are Covid compliance officers in all meat plants and for departmental inspectors to be given more powers around workers’ conditions.
“There needs to be greater transparency and accountability in the sector. For too long, large meat companies have had cosy relationships with political parties – this culture should have ended years ago.
“I will be writing to the chairs of both the Agriculture and Health Committees to ensure these matters are dealt with without delay.
“It is disappointing that the Government has disbanded the Special Covid Committee which was doing excellent work in examining and interrogating serious issues around the meat plants.”