FEARS are mounting that more meat plant shut downs could be on the horizon as the sector remains on high alert for potential Covid-19 outbreaks.
It has been suggested that continuous testing of meat plant staff could be adopted by meat processors in a bid to limit further outbreaks.
Concern for local workers has grown after localised lockdowns in Kildare, Offlay and Laois which are understood to be linked to outbreaks in meat processing factories.
Brookeborough farmer and councillor Sheamus Greene said he was “quite concerned about the meat plants” and the fact that this is a “reccurring theme”.
Speaking in relation to Covid fears for the sector he said, “It is them that dictates the price and has farmers on their knees and now for those working in it there doesn’t seem to be any proper precautions because if there was this wouldn’t be happening time and time again.
The meat factories seem to be an epicentre of what is happening with Covid.”
Cllr Greene said that inspectors should be visiting meat plants frequently outlining, “If they are not adhering to proper standards they should be closed down immediately”, adding that if staff have to leave work as a result the a shut down the factories “are well capable of looking after them for a few weeks”.
Cllr Greene warned that without putting proper protections in place there was a “threat to the food supply chain”. He also raised a question in relation to Covid-19 and its link with meat factories.
“Covid hot spots are happening around meat plants so the question has to be asked, four or five months into the crisis, what is falling down and who is holding these people to account?”
In East Fermanagh farmers and workers are located a few miles over the border from a major meat processing plant in Clones.
Commenting on the current situation there Clones Cllr Pat Treanor said, “I have not heard anyone complaining, if workers are happy with how their health is being protected then there doesn’t seem to be any big issues.
“Of course we need to learn from the disasters that happened in the three other counties and we need to try and ensure that people are protected and that the failures there are acknowledged and repaired.”
In May concerns were raised over Covid cases at the Omagh Meats factory. Reacting to news of Covid links to meat factories this week Fermanagh and Omagh Socialist Party said, “Lockdown measures have been reintroduced in Kildare, Offaly and Laois. It seems that clusters at meat processing plants in these areas are a major contributing factor to the spike in Covid infection, with bosses cutting corners on health and safety.”
A spokesman for the group suggested that “this is a warning to what can happen on this side of the border”.
He added, “Where clusters emerge, plants should be temporarily closed without loss of pay to allow for testing of all staff and their families, as well as deep cleaning.”
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