Tipperary IFA has taken issue with meat industry's layoffs due to ongoing protests
North Tipperary IFA chair Imelda Walsh has taken issue with Meat Industry Ireland (MII) over its claims that 3,000 meat factory workers have been laid off due to the protests outside meat plants.
MII issued a statement this week through Ibec saying 3,000 meat factory workers have been temporarily laid off due to the farmers' action.
However, Ibec has not responded to a query from the Tipperary Star to reveal how many layoffs there has been at ABP in Nenagh and Cahir.
MII said that the layoffs were due to the "continuing illegal blockades of factories and intimidation of staff and suppliers by protestors".
In its statement, it said that decisions to cease processing operations had not been taken lightly but "in the face of the unwillingness of protestors to stop their illegal blockades, companies were forced to act".
Some 80% of overall processing capacity had now closed, and further closures and layoffs were likely in coming days, they said.
MII said that it was not just the direct employees that will be affected by the ongoing crisis, but hundreds of indirect jobs will be impacted as ancillary businesses, including hauliers, will be heavily impacted by these closures.
"The Minister for Agriculture has tried to get all parties around the table to reach a settlement, and beef processors have always been open to engage in that process, but not whilst their plants are being illegally blockaded," they said.
However, Ms Walsh said that as a farmer and as chairperson of North Tipperary IFA, the question had to be asked in relation to workers at the meat plants being laid off.
"The current situation is certainly not of farmers' making. The fact that farmers felt the need to go to the factory gates to protest is due to the fact that we are fighting for our own survival and that of rural Ireland," she said.
Ms Walsh said that for too many years the livestock sector had been expected to produce beef and sell it below the cost of production.
"The frustration and anger of farmers is totally understandable. I think it’s important that we remember that the Irish agri-sector underpins 167,500 jobs and accounts for over €12bn to the Irish Exchequer," said the chairperson.
Ms Walsh said that she felt strongly that the meat processors should be obligated to come to the table with real solutions that were going to result in farmers being able to make a viable living.
"It’s important that we remember: no farmers, no future, no food," she said.
Ms Walsh said that she appreciated the difficulties being experienced by the factory workers but that it was imperative to remember that it was their product.
"Without real meaningful solutions, we won’t be able to continue farming and temporary layoffs will lead to permanent layoffs and the complete demise of rural Ireland," she said.