SOME WORKERS in Ireland's meat factories are being told not to self-isolate or risk losing their job, one Kildare County Councillor has said.
Outbreaks of coronavirus in meat and food processing factories are largely to blame for Ireland's sudden surge of new cases: on Saturday, the country recorded 174 new cases of the virus, the highest daily rise since May.
The surge in cases led to local lockdowns in three affected areas: Kildare, Laois and Offaly, where businesses have been closed again and people are urged to leave their homes for essential business only.
Controversially, the meat plants where the outbreaks occurred were not ordered to close, but several have decided they will not reopen, and others will run at a minimal capacity.
A lack of proper work conditions and worker's rights are being blamed for the outbreak, and Kildare Councillor Chris Pender yesterday told The Irish Mail on Sunday that one worker was told by his employer that if he self-isolated-- as is recommended by public health guidelines-- he would be at risk of losing his job.
Cllr Pender said:
"In one case, a worker had come back from checking on family abroad and ... they had informed their employers that they were going to quarantine for 14 days, as is recommended.
"They were told by the employers that one, they would get no sick pay, and two, they would be lucky to have a job to come back to."
The Social Democrats politician did not name any of the factories involved, however a meeting between worker's rights union Siptu and the Meat Industry Ireland is due to take place to day to address these concerns and a wide range of others.
Siptu official Greg Ennis spoke on RTÉ's Good Morning Ireland on Friday, where he said meat and food processing factories created the "perfect storm for the transmission of Covid".
"Close proximity workers, bottle necks in canteens and toilets, industrial air cooling systems circulating int he air and noise pollution which forces workers to shout and create ... droplets" are behind the spread of the infectious disease,Mr Ennis stated.
“We need a situation where if there is suspected cases of Covid, that workers are taken out of danger and sent home without loss of earnings.”
The union will also argue for the introduction of blanket testing in all Irish meat factories to prevent the spread of the virus.