News & Media

Dire situation in the meat industry shows need for Government action on sick pay now

25 November 2020

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Marie Sherlock

Labour spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Senator Marie Sherlock, has said that dire conditions in the meat industry show the urgent need for sick pay, and has called on the Government to take immediate action.

 

Senator Sherlock was speaking after a survey from the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland found 90 per cent of companies in the meat industry do not offer sick pay to workers.

 

Senator Sherlock said:

“The fact that only one in ten companies in the meat industry are providing sick pay to their workers is appalling. But it should come as no shock. This is a similar to the finding in the SIPTU survey of red meat workers published in July. The Government know this is an urgent issue but have chosen to plod along slowly in addressing it. Today's important publication is a reminder that the Government should have supported Labour’s Bill to ensure immediate Sick Pay for All in September.

 

“The lack of paid sick leave continues to be a fundamental weakness in our fight against Covid-19. In sectors like the meat industry, workers who are ill are being faced with an impossible choice between their wages and their health. The Migrant Rights Centre’s survey findings also show that many meat workers feel intimidated in their workplace and cannot speak out against bad practice by their employers.

 

"Meat Industry Ireland's response to the report today is a nonsense; we know that the majority of workers in the sector face some of the worst terms and conditions across all workplaces in this State and the Farmers Journal reporting in August confirmed that a number of workers are bogusly employed here with no access to social welfare protections in this State.

 

“Meat factory workers need to be protected, but the Government has repeatedly turned a blind eye to worker exploitation and Covid-19 outbreaks in the meat industry. One tenth of all people working in the meat sector were infected by the virus across 55 separate outbreaks – that is an astonishing fact that should spur the Government to quick action.

 

“These workers should not have to wait six months for a public consultation when a second wave is underway. We simply cannot find a way to overcome Covid-19 if workers who have symptoms are penalised for staying home.”