Thursday, 21 May 2020
Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements
It is the idea that the pursuit of profit by these companies will never clash with the health and safety of the workers. The Minister, Deputy Creed, should withdraw the comments from three weeks ago. The Minister should apologise to the meat factory workers of the country for not listening to their warnings and for not calling for inspections. There were no HSA inspections of meat factories or of any other workplace in the entire country until Monday of this week. It was zero. Then we had 80 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In the last week alone we had 328 confirmed cases of meat factory workers contracting Covid-19. That is almost 40% of all cases in the last week. It is a catastrophic crisis. It was preventable and the Minister was warned about it. Instead of intervening, however, and instead of enforcing the guidelines the Minister and his Department looked the other way. People could die as a consequence of that negligence.
I will give the example I gave three weeks ago, which is Moyvalley Meats. Three weeks ago the Minister, Deputy Creed, received an email from someone from inside that plant with information that staff with Covid-19 symptoms were working alongside healthy staff. The Minister's office told them it was not an issue for his Department and pointed them to the HSE. The HSE said that handling of breaches of the guidelines was not an issue for it and pointed them to the Garda. The Garda did not know what to do about it. This story is repeated everywhere. For a month the HSA said that it had nothing to do with it and the HSE said exactly the same. Since then that workplace is a Covid-19 cluster but I am told there has still been no inspection by a health and safety inspector. To this day the workers say that the guidelines are still being broken. I appeal to the Minister to not repeat the mistakes. Enough mistakes have been made. The Minister refused to accept it. Incredibly, the Minister appears today unable to answer the question about how many inspections have taken place. My mind is blown by the idea that the Minister would attend this debate knowing we were going to discuss meat factories, and not have that basic information. I ask the Minister to not dismiss this appeal, to take it seriously and to intervene now to make sure Moyvalley Meats and the other factories are inspected immediately.