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TD tangles with meat processing chief over infections

 

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The meat factories' representative body has been accused of "stonewalling" questions on the Covid-19 outbreaks in meat plants around the country.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the factories, told an Oireachtas committee yesterday there has been approximately 1,100 positive cases in meat factories, since one of its members first reported a positive Covid-19 case on March 17.

However, Independent TD for Limerick Richard O'Donoghue accused MII of "stonewalling" questions and going "around in circles", with MII representatives unable to provide details of how many of the 1,100 positive cases involved migrant workers or if the majority of its meat factory members have sick pay for workers.

MII chairman Philip Carroll said it was "completely unfair" to be accused of stonewalling questions and they had answered around 75 questions at that point.

Measures

Mr Carroll said meat factories had implemented a comprehensive set of measures to deal with Covid-19, but admitted there have been "too many" positive cases associated with plants.

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Status yellow: PETA supporters (left to right) Ide Fagan, Clodagh O’Brien and Siobhán Buckley in hazmat suits as they protested against the meat industry outside Leinster House yesterday. They called on the public to go vegan. Representatives of the meat industry addressed the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response about the large number of cases among its workers. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Status yellow: PETA supporters (left to right) Ide Fagan, Clodagh O’Brien and Siobhán Buckley in hazmat suits as they protested against the meat industry outside Leinster House yesterday. They called on the public to go vegan. Representatives of the meat industry addressed the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response about the large number of cases among its workers. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Status yellow: PETA supporters (left to right) Ide Fagan, Clodagh O’Brien and Siobhán Buckley in hazmat suits as they protested against the meat industry outside Leinster House yesterday. They called on the public to go vegan. Representatives of the meat industry addressed the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response about the large number of cases among its workers. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

The 1,100 positive cases, he said, is "not a badge of honour" for the sector, but that there are no active cases in meat plants today and "our absolute focus is to maintain this". MII also said five sites had carried out mass testing of workers.

Five factories had more than 100 positive cases among its workers by June 1, according to HSE figures.

The committee also heard that 70pc of the country's 15,000 meat factory workers are non-Irish, with 20pc from outside the EU.

However, MII could not provide a breakdown of how many Irish and non-Irish workers had tested positive for Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy. MII said it would "strive" to provide the information.

In relation to sick pay, committee chairman Michael McNamara asked three times if the majority of its members had sick pay available to workers. "Some of them have sick pay scheme and some of them don't," Cormac Healy, senior director of MII, told the committee.

Irish Independent