Tipperary farm leaders have raised concerns over conditions for meat plant employees
The have been calls throughout Tipperary this week for meat factories and food processors to take responsibility for the health and safety of their workers.
More than half of the Covid-19 cases in the past number of weeks had come from meat plants and food processing factories in Offaly, Laois and Kildare where the workers were living in direct provision or shared accommodation. These counties have now been placed under additional Covid-19 restrictions.
“The Midlands is a huge area of concern,” said Imelda Walsh, chair of North Tipperary IFA. “I am concerned about the relationship between meat factories and migrant workers.”
While she didn’t think closing meat plants nationally, even for a short space of time, along the lines of pub closures would be in anyone’s interest, Ms Walsh said there was a “huge job of work” for the Government in relation to where meat factory workers were living.
“It is hugely unacceptable,” she said. “The Government needs to step up to the plate when it comes to the link between meat factories and direct provision.”
Ms Walsh said that when it came to these workers, many of whom are on the minimum wage, their safety and protecting their health was paramount.
She wondered if they were being ignored because they didn’t seem to have a voice at the Cabinet table.
“When the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in a meat factory, they should have closed these centres then. It could have been better managed because the hotels were closed at the time,” she said.
She called on NPHET to explain how only 200 people were allowed into Semple Stadium, which holds 45,000, for the Toomevara and Upperchurch match at the weekend when they allow three or four people share the same living space in direct provision.
Commenting on the outbreak of Covid-19 at a number of meat processing facilities, Tipperary town’s Pat McCormack, president of ICMSA, said that it was important that the plants involved and the relevant state agencies put in place all the necessary measures to address the outbreaks and support the staff involved.
Mr McCormack said that it was vital that we all learn immediate lessons from these outbreaks and introduce and apply whatever additional measures were necessary in all workplaces so as to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The availability of high quality food is obviously essential to us all, so this is an essential service all the way from the farm to the retail outlet - including these workers in the meat plants. We have to redouble our efforts to protect these essential workers,” said Mr McCormack.