Thursday, 21 May 2020
Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements
Heather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy for the matters he raised. On the issue of work permits where workers come in from abroad, the general operative employment permits for the meat sector have a number of conditions attached concerning pay and hours of work. In addition to those conditions, the employer applicant must provide the Department with a signed declaration that the company will ensure the foreign national employee has access to suitable accommodation and training, including language training. When the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, which is the inspectorate in this regard, carries out a compliance check in relation to these general operative permits, the inspector will inquire, as part of the inspection, in order to confirm that conditions are met in respect of accommodation and language training. Permits for the occupation of meat deboner do not carry these conditions, but the salary threshold for that occupation is higher and stands at €27,000 per annum.
Since January 2019, 17 employers associated with meat processing have been inspected by the WRC. In six of those cases, contraventions of legislation were detected and three have been approved for prosecution, with inquiries ongoing in the other three cases. No breaches of the language training or accommodation conditions were detected. In addition, the HSA has all the necessary powers to take action in such matters. The first thing it wants to do is to work with employers and employees, but the authority has all the powers it needs to go into any place of work and close it down if that is what it deems necessary to do. I want to make clear that it has those powers.