Pig industry workers to protest in Dublin over pork crisis

 

Workers in the pig-meat industry who have been laid off as a result of the food scare surrounding pork are to carry out a lunchtime protest at Leinster House tomorrow.

The trade union Siptu said that it was organising the demonstration because of delays in resuming production.

It said that many workers were now in “dire straits” financially as a result of the continuing suspension of production in factories around the country.

The union also maintained that some workers affected by the halting of production were unable to claim social welfare payments.

Siptu said that members from plants in Edenderry, Waterford and Kilkenny were among those due to attend the protest.

Siptu has maintained that around 1,800 of its members in the pig-meat industry have been laid off as a result of the current controversy surrounding pork and pork products.

It also said that when non-union members were taken into account, the number of workers affected by the suspension of production due to the pork scare was in excess of 2,000.

Production has been halted as talks between producers and the Government over a compensation package continued this evening.

Siptu national industry secretary Gerry McCormack said last night that while the union appreciated that consumers, farmers and processors all had legitimate concerns, it believed that production workers were facing “the most immediate and drastic consequences of the current crisis.”

He said that Siptu was also inviting workers in non-union plants — who he said had no voice in the current crisis — to join the protest at Leinster House.

Siptu official Frank Jones, who represents workers at Offaly-based Rosderra Meats, said that the union had decided to take the protest to Dáil Éireann as at the end of the day it was the Government that had to sort out the problem.

“Many of our members are in dire straits, some of them are unable to claim social welfare benefits and all are facing into a very dismal Christmas”, he said.

Mr Jones said that some families were totally dependent on the production plant for an income.

“Given that the health issues have now been addressed there can be no justification for further delays in resuming production. Issues about compensation can continue to be addressed through negotiation, but further delays in resuming production will only add to the industry’s problems and see more people thrown on the dole — some of them permanently.

“Without an urgent resolution to the present impasse many workers will be faced with problems at a personal level that will become insurmountable within a matter of days,” he said.

The owners of pig processing plants have been demanding a multi-million compensation package from the Government to help them with the pork recall and the storage of slaughtered carcasses.

The European Commission said yesterday it would not compensate the Irish pig industry for the losses incurred. However, Taoiseach Brian Cowen rejected a suggestion that the Government request for a compensation fund had been turned down by the EC.

Mr Cowen said the Government was in the process of devising a scheme that would form the basis of discussions between Mr Smith and European agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Cowen said it was not correct to suggest that support was turned down. "An official from the European Commission has outlined its position. We are in discussion with processors to devise the parameters of a general scheme which will be submitted to the EU," he added.

Meanwhile, more workers in the meat processing sector were laid off yesterday. Some 230 workers were let go at the Olhausen facilities in Dublin, Cork, Monaghan and Galway. A further 115 jobs went at Granby Limited in Dublin, Drover Foods Limited in Wexford and Oak Park Foods in Cahir, Co Tipperary.

Mr Smith announced the results from the tests which had been carried out on 11 cattle herds were those he had hoped for. The results show that eight out of the 11 herds are clear and "three are above the proposed legislative limits for marker PCBs in beef", he added.