Thursday 20 August 2020
Green Party NI Leader Clare Bailey MLA has commented after a meat processing plant in Cullybackey, Co Antrim was temporarily closed in response to an outbreak of Covid 19.
Clare Bailey MLA said: "My first thoughts are with the factory workers who have contracted Covid-19. It will be a worrying time for them and their families and I hope and expect that their employer and Unions are doing everything possible to support them, financially and in terms of their health and well-being.
"The outbreak in this local processing plant follows a pattern of outbreaks in processing plants across the UK and Ireland. It's a pattern that poses wider questions around the safety of workers and working conditions in these factories.
"Workers in Northern Ireland's many meat processing plants are often migrant workers employed on insecure contracts and living in poor housing conditions. They often have limited access to sick pay and some have reported that health and safety measures within plants such as assess to hand washing and social distancing capabilities are inadequate.
"The Northern Ireland government has supported the growth of the local industrialised meat supply chain through the Going for Growth strategy in recent times. Now that we have so many of these big local factories employing thousands of low paid workers, what support can government offer to the people whose health and well-being has been compromised on the factory floor?
"We know that there was concern at the start of this pandemic around the capacity of the Health and Safety Executive to inspect factories and businesses when infection control concerns were raised. We need urgent assurances that all meat processing facilities are subject to inspection where concerns have been raised.
"As a society, we also need to consider the real cost of the cheap meat we produce here in Northern Ireland and export around the world. Building back better means putting an end to the low pay and poor conditions that many factory floor workers are subjected to."
Sinead McIvor - 07701 302 498