Meat processors on collision course with unions over plans to recruit 2,000 non-EU workers
Unions claim meat processors are struggling to get workers because of pay
Meat processors are seeking a massive 2,000 permits for workers from outside the EU to counter what they describe as a "critical" shortage of labour.
A spokesman for Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said difficulties in sourcing skilled workers continued to be a serious issue for meat processors.
Similar concerns have been expressed across the wider agriculture sector, with both the IFA and Farm Relief Service (FRS) lobbying to have more work permits issued for non-EU farm workers.
"Given the labour-intensive nature of meat processing operations and the increasing complexity of cutting specifications - not only for retail business but also now for servicing international markets - the inability of plants to secure labour is resulting in the loss of value-added opportunities," said Cormac Healy of MII.
Mr Healy said that meat processors had sought to secure suitable employees at home and within the EU, but as economies improved across Europe, it was proving increasingly difficult to get staff. He said the only option left was to look for non-EU workers.
"MII has been intensively engaged with both the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture over recent months to highlight the critical nature of the situation and to secure additional employment permits for meat processing," he added.
However, the trade unions have taken issue with MII's plans to hire non-EU labour.
Mick Browne of SIPTU said the reason some meat processors were struggling to get workers was because pay, terms and conditions in the industry at general operative level were at "the absolute minimum" that could be "legally applied".