A Lot To Process


From top: Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns; Patricia King, General Secretary of ICTU.

This morning.

Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19.

Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns asked Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) why it took a pandemic and workers to become infected with Covid-19 for the conditions in which meat plant workers live and work to be revealed.

She asked if the unions were aware of the conditions before Covid-19.

Patricia King said:

“There are a number of reasons for it. Firstly, affiliated unions of Congress, but particularly SIPTU, have represented workers in meat plants for decades, that’s number one.

But in some cases you will have a collective agreement under the terms and conditions but it’s not the norm and it’s not by any means the majority so we have argued strongly, for instance,

I sit on the Low Pay Commission , I’ve taken part in the public consultations where we’ve had exposure to workers coming in just from the street and offering public consultation their view as to what’s happening in their environment and in meat factories aswell. So we would be well aware but there is a very large body of opposition to having workers having any voice.

And there is a reason for that.

Because if you have a production pace at the level that they have that’s where the focus of those employers is and that production pace, I mean if you look at the top ten companies operating in this sector, you’re talking about the top one of having a turnover of €2.3billion in 2019 and the second one €2.2billion.

So you’re talking about big money to be made.

And their focus is on keeping those productions lines as fast and as lean as they can. And that means people, the model is working people as hard as they can for as little as they can for as long as they can.

That is the model.

And they’re not going to, they’re going to resist any infiltration by us in, to have discussions. And then they’re backed up by a law, or by the lack of legislation in this country which says, actually, if those workers want to make their voice heard collectively, there’s no law that says they can do that.

The balance of power here lies with the employers and it’s not a question that we haven’t been saying it. We’re blue in the face saying it. I’m three decades doing this for a living and I can tell you we’re blue in the face.

But we still haven’t succeeded in getting it across the value of having a balance in terms of this employer-worker relationship and that’s what we’re seeing. It takes a pandemic to demonstrate the fallout of this. But that, it has been around a long time.”

Deputy Cairns then asked Ms King to clarify that the unions did know about the conditions before Covid-19 “but the power of the beef lobby was too big to make those voices heard?”

Ms King replied:

“They don’t listen is the answer. They don’t listen.”

Pics via Oireachtas.ie


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20 thoughts on “A Lot To Process

    1. Truth in the News

      There was and they sold out to Larry Goodman and when it was in co op ownership
      they made a balls of running this meat processing sector, a lot of the current mess
      is attributable to short sighted farmer shareholders and that have allowed the same
      to almost to occur in dairy processing sector, and Ornua is nothing to write home
      about given the recent scandal on top executives pay

  1. Gabby

    Processing beef, bacon, lamb and assorted poultry is mass production work done by workers under pressure in unsavoury atmospherics. Consumers (that’s us) buy in supermarkets nicely packaged items of oven-ready and pre-cooked meat, without knowing about the physical circumstances of preparatory work done, or the employment terms and remuneration of the workers. Now as a result of Covid-19 the general public – we the consumers – are getting to learn some nittygritty things. After this process is over it will be a lame thing to say: we did not know these things were happening.

      1. Otis Blue

        300 Greencore workers test positive in Northampton.

        Hopefully Simon Coveney will glean some valuable insight from the brother.

    1. Otis Blue

      Upton Sinclair wrote about this stuff in 1905.


      King’s assertion that “they don’t listen” really isn’t good enough. Why should the Beef Barons have an opt out?

      The real issue is the persistent failure by successive Governments to adequately legislate on these issues; one that’s supported by a nexus of interests.

  2. Joe

    The Beef Baron’s being kept in clover by Fianna Fail Gael whilst their pet gimps the Green(wash) party votes against legislation relating to lower-paid jobs that would have increased their wages a fraction. No wonder Donnelly is in hiding today!

  3. Dr.Fart

    how long has Larry Goodman being using ireland like his own personal playground? Crooked backstard..

  4. GiggidyGoo

    Is Stephen Donnelly taking over the role of the Scarlet Pimpernel now? Or maybe he’s feeling a little off colour today.

  5. Frank

    wheres Cian? I pointed this very issue out to himher just the other day and was met by incredulity.
    BTW. if you register the ownership of a property with the CRO as a company you can dodge tax and only pay corporation tax. a lesser rate and you ‘hide’ your inheritance tax liability for the next shower.
    to hell with society as long as you’re getting your payday=SCUMBAGS

      1. Frank

        and they are 3 bed houses converted into 7 bed plus the living rooms. 10 – 13 bedrooms in a 3 bed house. you fupping sham like you don’t know whats happening and the subsequent destruction of communities

        1. Cian

          You are changing your story.

          Originally it was 3bed conveyed to 5/6 beds. You just doubled the number of rooms.

          Is it still 20 Brazilians? Or are you squeezing another 25 in?

  6. RanelaghPete

    Interestingly, if you had only listened to RTÉ News ( and not read Broadsheet.ie) you would have gotten the clear impression that the session was all about Patricia King ‘sticking it to’ the beef barons, with no mention of soc dems…

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