Cranswick: latest Covid-19 cluster highlights ongoing failure to address issues in meat sector

Unite logo white out of redUnite urgently seeking clarification and assurances from management

“If workers are not safe, nobody is safe”

August 20th:  Unite, which has members working at the Cranswick meat processing plant in Cullybackey, which has shut down following a Covid-19 cluster, is seeking urgent clarification from management regarding the extent of the cluster and the company’s plans to ensure the facility is safe when it re-opens.  Unite is also seeking assurances that workers sent home to self-isolate will not suffer any loss of pay.  Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Liam Gallagher said:

“The meat processing sector has been a vector of Covid-19 transmission in Northern Ireland, the island of Ireland and internationally.  This latest outbreak in Cranswick shows that the issues in the sector have still not been addressed, despite the risks being highlighted since May.  In particular, Unite has consistently called for a significant increase in unannounced inspections by the HSE, along with other transparent and robust enforcement measures.

 “Unite is currently trying to ascertain the extent of the outbreak in Cranswick.  We are also seeking assurances that members who have been sent home to self-isolate following shut-down of the plant will not suffer any loss of pay, and that they will return to a safe workplace when the facility re-opens.

“The most effective way for management to ensure that the plant is fully compliant with public health measures is to engage with the workers and their representatives.

“The highly profitable meat processing sector relies on precarious, low-paid workers who may be reluctant to report symptoms or self-isolate because they fear a loss of pay.

“One of the best ways for the sector to address the spread of Covid-19 in meat plants would be to assure all workers that they will suffer no financial loss if they report symptoms or self-isolate.  Workers must also be confident that they can report breaches of health and safety without suffering any detriment.

“This pandemic demonstrated that decent treatment of workers is not only socially and economically necessary:  it is also a public health necessity.

 “As well as highlighting the ongoing failure to address issues in the meat sector, this latest outbreak illustrates what Unite has been saying since the start of the pandemic:  if workers are not safe, nobody is safe”, Mr Gallagher concluded.

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