Some 78% of employers in the meat processing sector were found to be in breach of employment law when inspected by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in 2022.
WRC officials carried out a total of 23 announced and unannounced inspections of employers in the meat processing sector last year, with 18 found to be in breach of employment law requirements. Breaches identified could include unfair pay, inadequate breaks or long hours without rest.
The 18 breaches identified by the WRC resulted in a total of €6,078 in outstanding wages recovered for meat plant employees.
The WRC 2022 findings are up from the employment law breaches it uncovered in 2021, where 60% of meat plants were found to have issues.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has been contacted by the Irish Farmers Journal for comment.
Due to these employment law breaches, the WRC says it “continues to be active in the meat sector”.
“Following the completion of a consultation process with operators in the meat processing sector during 2021 to raise awareness in relation to compliance with employment legislation, the WRC maintained its ongoing campaign of inspections of operators within the meat sector during 2022,” a spokesperson said.
Elsewhere, there were a total of 49 employers in the agriculture sector inspected by the WRC in 2022. Such employers could include everything from large fruit and vegetable farmers to smaller livestock farms with just one or two employees.
The WRC found 23 (or 47%) of these agriculture sector employers to be in breach of employment law.
A total of €14,416 in unpaid wages was recovered for employees following the inspections.
In its annual report for 2022, the WRC also highlighted its participation in the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
This security initiative is driven by EU member states to identify, prioritise and address threats posed by organised and serious international crime.
The WRC participates in EMPACT joint days of action focused on labour exploitation and human trafficking, which involves labour inspectorates and police forces across Europe.
Two campaigns were carried out by the WRC in 2022 as part of the initiative, with one of these targeting labour exploitation in the agriculture sector.
The commission’s joint action days in the agriculture sector took place during the week of 14 to 21 September 2022.
WRC officials inspected employers in the agricultural sector including forestry, fruit and vegetable farms and livestock farms (animals and poultry).
Overall, a total of 28 unannounced inspections were undertaken and 17 contraventions of employment legislation were detected.