SIPTU is calling for mandatory temperature testing and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in all meat and dairy plants.

The calls come following confirmation from the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed of six clusters of COVID-19 in meat plants around the country.

News broke on Friday that Dawn Meats had also temporarily closed its Kilbeggan plant following four confirmed cases at the factory.

“Action must be taken if we are to avert the possibility of the closure of the entire meat and dairy processing industry due to the threat of COVID-19,” SIPTU said.

Fears realised

While Dawn Meats and other meat factories have stated that they have complied with HSE guidelines and implemented measures to ensure the safety of their workforce, SIPTU said their “fears had been realised” with the Minister’s confirmation of virus outbreaks.

SIPTU also said that plants needed to be inspected by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which had not happened to date.

It said failure to inspect plants would put further workers, their families and the wider community at risk.

Meat Industry Ireland

The body representing meat factories Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has said that they "have prioritised the safety and wellbeing of staff, farmer suppliers and service providers by implementing a wide range of protective measures and protocols at each of their sites."

"Despite these enhanced safety and protective measures, as the COVID-19 situation has evolved across the country, unfortunately some meat processing facilities have had to manage the impact of positive cases.

"In doing so, they have followed, in full, the advice and recommendations of the HSE and other authorities."

They said meat processing was considered an essential service by the Government in order to provide continuity of the food supply both nationally and internationally.

"So far, production levels and processing throughput has been maintained in recent weeks in the pigmeat, lamb and poultry sectors," MII said.

"Beef throughput is down about 20% on equivalent weeks last year and 30% compared to early March 2020, but this reduction in throughput is due to market disruption and the loss of demand from the food service market rather than any limitation on operational capacity."

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