Claims have been made that meat factory staff were forced to go back to work despite the fact that co-workers were displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
There have been more that 600 cases of the virus recorded among workers in the meat processing sector.
In the Dáil Former minister and independent TD Denis Naughten has claimed that clusters of infection formed surrounding meat plants. He this is the “where the levels of infection within the plants themselves is up on one third or, in some instances, half of the workforce”.
Mr Naughten also claimed that he discovered that staff were not being made to self-isolate in the period between being tested and the results being produced which seriously undermines the validity of the negative results. Due to this he has secured enough Dáil support to ask Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to explain how this situation was allowed to happen at meat processing plants.
Mr Naughten said: “These failures in the system have resulted in new infection clusters in communities across the country which up to now had low levels of Covid-19 infection. If these fundamental issues are not addressed immediately, in advance of the easing of the lockdown next Monday, then we could very quickly be looking at a second spike in Covid-19 infections.
“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of this virus we cannot allow a second wave of infection under any circumstances. So, while we must remain cautious in how we relax restrictions, we must also learn to live with Covid-19 which will be with us for a considerable time to come.”
Gerry McCormack, Deputy general secretary of trade union SIPTU, commented that said that some meat processing plants had “completely ignored” HSE rules in relation to Covid-19. He remarked: “What seems to have happened is that some employers really didn’t take this seriously. Some of them did. Some employers completely ignored the recommendations from the HSE on how to do physical distancing and put in proper processes to protect workers.”
Mr McCormack went on to say: “If you contrast, for example, the meat industry with the dairy industry which are both providing food throughout this country and abroad and we have very little, if any, outbreaks in the dairy industry. It’s a well paid, well-regulated industry, as compared to the meat industry. We had a problem from the very beginning in that some employers weren’t taking this seriously.”