Farm Ireland

Sunday 9 December 2018

Norwegian processors offer rich pickings for Irish meat workers

Meat processors are looking to Brazil and the Ukraine to fill an estimated 2,000 vacancies in the sector
Meat processors are looking to Brazil and the Ukraine to fill an estimated 2,000 vacancies in the sector
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Norwegian meat processors are targeting skilled Eastern European workers employed by Irish slaughter plants in a move which threatens to exacerbate labour shortages in the industry.

Temporary work contracts are being offered in Norway to experienced boners and butchers who have worked in the sector for at least three years.

Between €18/hr and €22/hr is being offered for suitable staff. This is around double the pay rates available from Irish processors, where workers are generally on between €9.55/hr (the minimum wage) and €12/hr.

The international employment agency Adecco that is sourcing the staff say they are looking for "skilled butchers/slaughterers" who have experience working with pigs or cattle.

The agency is looking for workers who can "open and skin animal carcasses" and "clean carcasses for further processing".

"Our research shows that there are butchers available in Ireland, mostly Polish, who might be interested in seasonal work in Norway," a spokesperson for Adecco said.

The agency explained that it is looking for a mix of qualified butchers, as well as boners with slaughter-line experience who may not have certification.


The positions, which are initially temporary, are with the Norwegian co-operative meat processor Nortura.

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The business is owned by 30,000 farmers and operates 41 slaughter and processing plants in the country.

The threat of losing experienced staff to higher-paying operators in Scandinavia will cause concern in the Irish processing industry.

Irish meat processors recently received clearance from the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, to recruit 250 staff from outside the EU - it is anticipated that most will come from Ukraine and Brazil.

However, the sector's representative body, Meat Industry Ireland (MII), has warned that severe labour shortages are threatening the industry's capability to meet ambitious expansion targets for Irish beef production.

MII has indicated that meat processors urgently need a further 1,800 work permits for non-EU staff.

But this assertion has been challenged by SIPTU. The union claims low pay and poor working conditions are the primary reasons why Irish meat processors are struggling to get workers.

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