SIPTU members are not surprised by detailed revelations in the Irish Mail on Sunday (IMOS) of illegal work practices in the meat processing industry. An investigation published in the newspaper today alleges that some vulnerable workers are forced to secure fake identities from criminal forgers in order to gain employment in meat plants and are the victims of ‘a modern form of slavery’. Based on information provided by a whistle blower, the newspaper report also raises serious concerns about the potential spread of the P1 variant, which originated in Brazil, across the meat industry in Ireland. It is reported that the HSE has declined to confirm whether any of the P1 cases in Ireland are linked to meat plants. SIPTU Manufacturing Division Organiser, Greg Ennis, said that many workers in the meat industry are afraid to speak out about illegal practices and, in some cases, are reluctant to join a trade union for fear of retribution, the loss of their job or deportation. “We are not surprised by the many shocking and distressing details in this report. We are particularly concerned at the possible outbreaks of the new Covid-19 variants in Irish meat processing plants. While the union has a good working relationship with some employers, many employments are breeding grounds for exploitation and today’s report proves that beyond doubt. “Over 25% of workers within the industry have contracted Covid-19 yet most of the key recommendations made by the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 in October 2020 have not been implemented. “We are now calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConologue, to meet with worker representatives to discuss today’s newspaper report and to put in place immediate measures to address them. These must ensure that work permits are granted on the condition that the employer provides decent terms and conditions, a record of ensuring a safe workplace and proper sick pay provision. “We are also seeking a ban on agencies providing workers to the meat industry so as to ensure direct employment, as is now the case in Germany, and that greater resources are made available to the Health and Safety Authority and the Department of Social Protection to assist in eradicating the form of modern slavery evidenced by the IMOS investigation.”