Varadkar says he queried oversight of employment rights in meat processing sector

Tánaiste says he wrote to Workplace Relations Commission last autumn

Nearly half of all inspections of meat processing plants between 2015 and 2020 uncovered breaches of employment law. File photograph: Getty

Nearly half of all inspections of meat processing plants between 2015 and 2020 uncovered breaches of employment law. File photograph: Getty

 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Employment Leo Varadkar has said he raised concerns with the Workplace Relations Commission last autumn regarding the findings of inspections of meat plants.

He said he had queried whether there was sufficient oversight of employment rights in the meat processing sector.

Official figures show that nearly half of all inspections of meat processing plants between 2015 and 2020 uncovered breaches of employment law.

Among the breaches uncovered by inspectors were failure to pay the national minimum wage; lack of full statutory employment records under working time legislation, illegal employment of foreign nationals and unauthorised deductions from wages.

Question

Mr Varadkar told Sinn Féin spokeswoman on workers’ rights Louise O’Reilly in an answer to a written parliamentary question on Wednesday that almost €184,000 in outstanding wages were recovered by the Workplace Relations Commission for workers in the meat processing sector in the period 2015 to 2020.

In the written answer Mr Varadkar said: “In October last year, I wrote to the director general of the Workplace Relations Commission expressing my concern regarding the inspection figures relating to the meat processing sector; querying whether the oversight of employment rights in this sector was sufficient; and if it was time for a renewed focus by the Workplace Relations Commission on meat processing plants.”

It is understood that the Workplace Relations Commission, which had been involved in dealing with the return-to-work protocol following the first Covid-19 lockdown, suggested it could be timely to re-direct resources to employment rights’ issues.

Mr Varadkar said: “The Workplace Relations Commission RC Inspectorate is staffed by civil servants of my Department. Workplace Relations Commission inspectors are ranked at executive officer (EO) and higher executive officer (HEO) level. As of 19th March 2021, there are a total of 53 WRC Inspectors, 48 at EO level and 5 at HEO. My Department, in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service (PAS) has recruitment campaigns in train to recruit WRC inspectors at both EO and HEO level.”