The Covid pandemic highlighted poor conditions for workers in meat processing plants in Ireland as one of the first industries to report frequent outbreaks of the virus.
By May 2020, Covid cases associated with meat factories made up a significant proportion of Ireland’s daily national caseload.
At that stage, there were over 1,000 cases of Covid among plant workers, with a Government report stating the primary mode of transmission was person-to-person contact at the plants.
The health and safety of workers - who are often migrants - including a lack of social distancing at some plants, was raised at the time.
However, recent research by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) found a “systemic culture of poor and dangerous working conditions, with employers who put profit before the health and safety of their workers”.
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By speaking to meat factory workers, we will delve into their working and living conditions to find out if any of the systemic issues identified by MRCI are being addressed.
Interim guidance on outbreaks in meat factories was issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in 2021. We will investigate if this guidance is being followed and whether it is having an impact on case numbers.
Figures from the UK showed that over a two-year period 18 workers lost fingers, parts of fingers or limbs and over 100 suffered serious injuries. We will examine Ireland’s records, audits and inspections and compare these to health and safety findings abroad.
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