SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis urged the immediate creation of a ‘Farm to Fork’ meat industry taskforce to deal with the situation, following more than 600 cases of the virus being reported in meat processing plants across Ireland.
“There is an urgent need for a taskforce involving all meat industry stakeholders to be set up by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. A sector specific strategy is long overdue for the meat industry to tackle the threat posed from Covid-19. Workers in meat plants are employed in close proximity to each other and this has almost certainly been a conduit for the spread of the virus. The living conditions of the many low paid workers in the industry is another contributory factor.
“A collective approach, encompassing elements of the recently agreed ‘Return to Work Protocol’ and other additional measures must be tailored for the meat industry to prevent a potentially disastrous situation emerging in plants across the country. The meat industry has become another front line in the fight against the virus and must be prioritised. We are asking the Minster for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to urgently establish a ‘Farm to Fork’ meat industry taskforce to counter this serious threat to workers, their families and their communities.”
The Minister for Agriculture, along with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, is set to appear before the Dáil on Thursday 21 May to answer questions about the spread of the virus in processing plants.
Irish state broadcaster RTE reported a series of confirmed cases of coronavirus over the past week including 60 cases at a pig processing plant in Co. Offaly and 120 cases at Rosderra Meats, which is based in Co. Tipperary.