Vienna, 13 June 2022 : Today EFFAT and IUF launch #MeatTheStandards: A Europe wide initiative to raise awareness about the urgency for a fairer meat sector in Europe through:
- increasing trade union membership and workplace representation in the sector
- improving pay and working conditions through collective bargaining
- empowering meat workers’ voice into the policy debate.
The meat sector is an incredibly profitable industry: with a turnover of a hundred billion of euros and a presence of 32000 companies, it employs a workforce of approximately 1 million, of which only a very small proportion is directly employed.
Yet, the sector is sadly renowned for its deplorable working and living conditions: overcrowded accommodation, lack of social security coverage, job insecurity, long and unrecorded working hours, poor wages and health and safety standards are only some of the hardships many meat workers face across Europe.
Such dire reality is the consequence of a model that has developed through business practices and work arrangements aimed at cutting costs and escaping employer liability such as abusive subcontracting, bogus self -employment or the fraudulent use of temporary agency work. Covid-19 has exacerbated many of these issues, leading to the infection of nearly 30,000 meat-plant workers across the US and Europe.
EFFAT and its global union federation IUF now join forces to call for a serious reform of sector that would dignify meat workers by raising their labour standards and increasing their trade union power.
Kristjan Bragason, EFFAT General Secretary said: ‘With #MeatTheStandards, all European affiliates are coming together with the same urgency: Fixing the meat sector at the European level through a long-term vision that underpins binding legislative initiatives, stronger collective bargaining rights and social partners’ full involvement on national and European level.’
Sue Longley, IUF Secretary General said: ‘Exploitation of workers in the meat sector extends beyond Europe and the fight for better wages and acceptable standards is global. The high levels of Covid-19 infection which were prevalent in North American meat packing, led to a successful campaign by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) to lift wages and improve safety standards. In Brazil, unions have joined forces to fight Ministry of Labour proposals to withdraw or amend health and safety legislation in the meat sector.’
Freddy Adjan, (NGG Vice-Chair, Germany siad: ‘NGG’s carried out a tireless fight to achieve the current the Arbeitsschutzkontrollgesetz that bans subcontracting and limits the use of temporary agency work. Thanks to our fight and industrial actions in 2021, NGG concluded a new nationwide collective agreement on sectoral minimum wage. Negotiations with employers’ organizations to address better working conditions started in 2022. But the fight can’t be over until a truly EU coordinated response will address social dumping and the plagues of the sector across Europe.’
Ole Whelast (NNF, Denmark), EFFAT Food President said: ‘In Denmark all meat workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements and the level of trade union membership is very high. Yet, we’ve always had to cope with unfair competition and job losses stemming from the challenging conditions in other European countries. That’s why we join EFFAT and the IUF in the fight for a fairer meat sector. Because it is in the interest of all European meat workers.’
José Aranda Garrigós (CCOO de Industria, Spain) and Sebastian Serena (UGT FICA, Spain) agree: ‘Trade unions have reached some remarkable achievements in the last years, contributing to the approval of new national labour reform. The new regulation puts an end to a practice of irregular and excessively long working hours in the Spanish meat sector and limits the working day to a maximum of 9 ordinary hours of effective work. However, the sector remains particularly fragile and the fight for fairer conditions for meat workers cannot stop now.’
Greg Ennis, (SIPTU, Ireland) said: In Ireland we ensured that the campaign for safer working protocols and the need for statutory occupational sick pay were realised through a national safety protocol agreement between SIPTU and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the enactment of legislation in September 2022 on occupational sick pay provision’.
The sector rightly sets such a high bar when it comes to animal welfare or environmental respect. It should be the same when it comes to granting basic rights and fair working conditions to those employed.