The letter, signed by SIPTU Manufacturing Division Organiser, Greg Ennis and MRCI Director, Edel McGinley, said: “We were deeply concerned to hear your testimony at yesterday’s hearing to the Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 that despite reports received by the HSA, no inspections have been carried out in the meat factories. We have been approached by our members and workers from various meat factories who feel that their safety at work has not been prioritised by their employers during this crisis.”
“At the beginning of the lockdown, some employers were very slow to put in place safety measures, including staggered breaks, floor markings, shields between work stations, temperature testing, cleaning of workwear between use by different employees and signage in languages people could understand.”
The letter, sent to Ms McGuinness and copied to the chairman of the HSA board, Tom Coughlan and agriculture minister, Michael Creed, went on to complain that the failure by employers to implement health and safety protocols resulted in significant exposure among staff to the virus which may have contributed to the surge in cases in so many meat plants. SIPTU and the MRCI asked why the HSA has been so slow to respond to reports of the spread of the virus in the meat industry and what action it now intends to take.
The HSA has “the powers at your disposal that could be used to shut down workplaces on the spot if this is deemed necessary. Where such action is taken, workers should suffer no loss of earnings,” the letter states. The union has also accused the employer’s lobby group Meat Industry Ireland (MII) of refusing to engage with the it in discussions to deal with the spread of the virus in so many meat plants in recent weeks.
“To avoid such an engagement is not in keeping with the approach of almost all other sectors in Ireland which are working together to defeat Covid-19 and its devastating effect on workers, their families, businesses and the wider community,” Greg Ennis said.