3,000 workers laid off temporarily as farmers' blockades shut meat factories
The country's main meat factories shut their doors yesterday, resulting in the temporary lay-off of 3,000 employees, as hundreds of farmers continue protests over beef prices.
And some protesting farmers are suggesting they stage a tractor blockade to Dublin, but a spokesperson for the Independent Farmers group said the move could be counterproductive to upset the general public. The decision would be up to individual farmers.
Some 80pc of meat processing capacity has been shut down by the protests, which started on July 28, according to the processors who have been criticised by Siptu.
It said Meat Industry Ireland (MII) had refused to meet with them to discuss the concerns of union members.
"In these circumstances, it is extremely regrettable that Meat Industry Ireland has refused a written request from our union to meet with representatives to discuss the threat to the livelihood of our members resulting from this dispute," a spokesperson for Siptu said.
MII said that due to the ongoing blockades across most of the beef processing businesses in the country, its members were facing an indefinite cessation of cattle slaughtering.
The vast majority of slaughtering has already been stopped and additional "wildcat" disruptions were putting the balance of facilities under threat of closure, MII said in a statement.
Yesterday, Tánaiste and former minister for agriculture Simon Coveney said a sustainable business model for beef must be found because it was such an important part of the nation's agriculture. Shutting down factories would not solve the problem.
He said the Government was trying to get farmers and factories around a negotiating table again and looking at a potential regulator for the beef sector.
"There are a lot of people who are on picket lines who don't want to be there, who are at the end of their tether, who are highly charged emotionally because of losing money in their businesses and on their farms," said Mr Coveney. "But we have to find a way together of ending this standoff."
However, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said there could not be a situation where factories refuse to engage with their customers.
He added that the toxic relationship between the meat industry and farmers would do damage to the sector if talks did not take place between both parties.
The initial beef protests were organised by the Beef Plan Movement, which sprung up last autumn amid farmer disquiet over prices. However, it has moved to distance itself from the pickets in recent weeks and now farmers at the gates are represented by a splinter group - Independent Farmers of Ireland.
Mr Coveney also warned that farmers expressing their anger without the structure of farming organisations was dangerous for the sector: "The fear is you do a deal and then it can't be sold, or there are people who... because they're at their wit's end."
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