One of the leading meat-processing companies in the Republic has forced employees to sacrifice two days of annual leave because it was unable to open its plants for two days during the recent heavy snowfalls.
Last week Dawn Meats, which is the main supplier of beef to fast-food giant McDonald's in Europe, told staff at its nine meat-processing facilities they were automatically being deducted two days' annual leave to cover the period when a status-red weather warning was in place across the State.
Staff who contacted The Irish Times said there was little or no consultation with employees before the announcement was made and they have expressed dismay at losing two days' holidays through no fault of their own.
Dawn Meats confirmed it was deducting holiday leave from employees as a result of the plant closures but claimed it was acting “in line with norms” across the food-processing sector.
While companies are not legally obliged to pay staff who do not show up for work – for whatever reason – many have chosen to do so in the aftermath of some of the most extreme weather in recent times
Kepak, one of the company's main competitors in the meat-processing sector, told The Irish Times it was paying its staff as normal despite also having being forced to close for two days during Storm Emma.
A Dawn Meats spokesman said: "Following the advice of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group, production was suspended across all Dawn Meats sites in Ireland from Thursday afternoon and through Friday of last week.
“In respect of this downtime – enforced by weather events outside our control – team members have access to normal annual leave arrangements and scope to work additional hours as we replenish supplies for our customers in the coming days and weeks. These arrangements are in line with norms in the food-processing sector.”
The move was condemned by Siptu's organiser for the agriculture, ingredients, food and drink sector Michael Browne, who denied that it was the norm across the sector and said that many of the union's members working at other meat-processing facilities had been told they would be paid as normal.
“Many of the people affected here would not be the highest-paid staff in this company and nor would they have the best terms and conditions so what we are seeing is the people who can least afford in being asked to pay the most,” he said.
While companies are not legally obliged to pay staff who do not show up for work – for whatever reason – many have chosen to do so in the aftermath of some of the most extreme weather in recent times.
Meanwhile, thousands of health service staff who attended work during the recent severe weather appear set to receive additional annual leave. The Health Service Executive has told trade unions that personnel who went to work on red-alert weather warning storm days would be paid for time worked and receive time off in lieu. It said staff who could not get to work or whose place of work was closed due to the red-alert weather warning would be paid as normal.
The Government could now face calls for similar concessions of additional leave from staff elsewhere in the public service – such as local authorities or in An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces – who also worked during the recent severe weather.