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Unions and meat processors agree safety protocol for workers in the industry

Siptu division organiser Greg Ennis said that serial testing must be maintained at meat plants going forward.

Image: Shutterstock/El Nariz

REPRESENTATIVES OF SIPTU and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) have agreed what is being described as a “wide-ranging safety protocol” for workers in the meat processing industry aimed at suppressing Covid-19 outbreaks.

The protocol includes a commitment to maintain serial testing of workers at meat plants, ongoing health screening, temperature testing, the mandatory use of PPE and stringent hygiene controls.

A joint employer/worker forum will be established in a number of areas to ensure full compliance with these measures, Siptu said. 

Meat plants have been a significant source of Covid-19 outbreaks since the onset of the pandemic, and in excess of 1,500 cases have been linked to outbreaks in such settings. 

When localised restrictions were brought in for Kildare, Laois and Offaly in early August, the surge in cases in these areas were linked back to outbreaks in the likes of meat plants and Direct Provision centres. 

Siptu had long called for greater protections for workers in such settings, and the HSE recently implemented serial testing of workers at these plants – although that was postponed for a period last week

Its manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis said today: “The fact that this protocol has been completed in conjunction with MII demonstrates there is a coherent approach by employers and workers’ representatives in the industry which places the health of workers, their families and the wider community as its main priority. 

The work of HSE testers in implementing the programme of serial testing at meat plants has also been outstanding. Such serial testing of workforces in the industry must be maintained if we are to minimise the occurrence of outbreaks at processing plants.
It must be remembered that with this virus, no one is safe until everybody is safe.

In a statement, MII said that the new code of conduct will formalise the existing suite of measures in place at meat plants. 

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Its director Cormac Healy said: “We are pleased to have worked with Siptu to agree this set of safety protocols to protect employees in our sector. It formalises a wide range of measures that have already been put in place and will provide reassurance that the industry is 100% committed to taking all appropriate steps to mitigate the risk posed by Covid-19.

“The sharp reduction in clusters in meat plants and the low rate of positive test incidence shown by the ongoing serial testing is indicative that the efforts being made are working. However, there is no room for complacency. Given the wider community trends in Covid-19 cases, continued vigilance and rigorous enforcement of mitigation measures and testing, track and trace is essential.”

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Sean Murray

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