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Morning Memo: Berlin D2 blues, meat plant sick pay and our short attention span

Focus has shifted from the meat industry to the pub and hospitality sector since the weekend.

This is an extract from today’s edition of Morning Memo, TheJournal.ie’s daily business newsletter, which puts the biggest business and economics stories of the day into context for readers. We also include a reading list of some of the more interesting business and economics-tinged stories from around the internet. Find out more and sign up here or at the bottom of the page.

MOST OF US will have been grinding our teeth over the weekend at the news of a spike in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the island.

As a result of the increase, the National Public Health Emergency Team is set to meet today to discuss “significant” new measures to slow the spread of the virus. Although there’s no indication yet of what that might mean, the prospect of further local lockdowns will send shivers down the spines of business owners across the country.

After being directed firmly toward meat processing plants last week, social media outrage was diverted toward another sector over the weekend after that video surfaced, which seemed to show staff at a Dublin cafe bar, Berlin D2, flouting social distancing rules. All of a sudden, divisive restaurateur Jay Bourke — who was disqualified from acting as a company director by the High Court in 2017 — has found himself in the spotlight once again.

Pub lobby groups were quick to distance themselves from what happened at the Dame Street boozer on Saturday during a brunch event. But just as quickly, politicians joined in on the finger-pointing and acting Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn last night highlighted the dangers of “reckless” socialising.

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Given our short attention spans at the moment, it seems very likely that the pub and hospitality sectors will replace the meat processing industry as the object of public ire this week.

Could that mean further restrictions on the operation of pubs and restaurants?

Watch this space.

Spotlight on sick pay at meat plants

Outrage might have been diverted elsewhere over the weekend, but the meat processing industry is still caught firmly in the glare of the public and political spotlight.

As agreed by the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 last week, serial testing will be rolled out at meat factories over the coming days following a week of intense scrutiny by politicians of the industry.

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Whether that scrutiny will result in wholesale changes at meat plants remains to be seen but there is certainly a growing clamour for improvements and not just from the opposition benches.

Over the weekend, a junior minister in the Department of Agriculture, the Green Party’s Pippa Hackett, called for workers in the sector to be given greater access to sick pay. It follows a disagreement between trade union Siptu and lobby group Meat Industry Ireland at the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response last week over the exact number of workers in the sector who are entitled to receive sick pay.

Based on a survey of its own members, MII said it was about 20% but Siptu says that it’s just 10%. Either way, it’s a low proportion, dangerously low, you might argue, in the context of a pandemic.

This is an extract from today’s edition of Morning Memo, TheJournal.ie’s daily business newsletter, which puts the biggest business stories of the day into context for readers. Find out more and sign up here or enter your email address below.

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