Thursday, 21 May 2020
Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements
Damien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
I will not take up the full slot but I have a couple of quick questions. I welcome the protocols published over a week ago and I ask the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, about their implementation. My understanding is there is an assumption that everybody wants to protect staff, employees and customers. I assume the reports are of a positive engagement around the protocols but perhaps the Minister can update us on that. I ask that the HSA take the approach of working with employers to give guidance so there is no fear when the authority is to be contacted; the opposite should be true. I accept, as the Minister, Deputy Creed, has said, that employers want to protect their staff. I assume if they contact the HSA, the authority will provide guidance and advice and it will work with employers. It should not just be assumed that the HSA exists to catch out employers but rather that it is there to help. We want staff to be protected and there should be no cover-up.
There will be an extra cost to all employers, not just in meat factories, from putting in place these protections. When is it hoped that the grants announced a few days ago will be up and running? Are we still on track for other businesses to access those grants, including those for restarting businesses?
The Minister, Deputy Creed, said there was ongoing engagement with different stakeholders and he has had regular meetings with industry representatives. Will he consider visiting a factory to indicate confidence in what we are doing here and the procedures being put in place? It is important to send out that message. Everybody wants to know about this and, naturally, we are watching the different sectors that are opening first, as well as those that remained open. It would indicate confidence if the Minister could visit a facility and let us know about his engagement.
The protocols and guidelines are in place but there is some confusion around the guidance here. We get our own advice and every place must get its own advice. I presume the protocols in place can be updated as we go along based on feedback from different sectors.