Migrant Rights Centre Ireland raises concern

12 August 2020: ‘Definitely undocumented workers in meat sector who may not have a PPS number’ – Migrant Rights Centre

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has said that there are “definitely undocumented workers in the meat sector who may not have access to a PPSN [Personal Public Service Number]”.

Following concerns raised by trade union SIPTU over sick pay for workers in meat factories in Ireland, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has said that, under its department, all workers are entitled to claim the Covid-19 Illness Benefit payment, irrelevant as to whether a company has a sick pay scheme or not.

However, to be eligible for payments workers need to have a PPSN and make Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions (in their own name).

[Also Read: Meat factory workers ‘entitled to Covid-19 illness payment’ but must have PPSN and PRSI contributions]

Edel McGinley, MRCI director, told AgriLand that she believes there “are definitely undocumented workers in meat factories without access to a PPSN”.

“There is still a concern and an issue also around bogus self-employment and workers who may be forced to be self-employed and not being direct employees of companies. The MRCI is very concerned about these types of practices,” McGinley said.

It’s an industry that’s rife with exploitation, abuse and harassment. I am calling on Minister [for Agriculture] Dara Calleary to set up a group to look at conditions for workers in the sector.

It was announced last week that the enhanced Illness Benefit will be extended until March 31, 2021. In order to receive payment through this a worker must have paid at least one qualifying PRSI contribution in the four weeks immediately before claiming the payment. Workers must also have a contract of employment.

“Almost 25% of workers we’re talking to either don’t have a contract of employment or don’t know if they have a contract. That’s another barrier for people accessing an illness payment,” McGinley continued.

The fundamental issue here is that 90% of the workers that we talk to aren’t covered by any sick pay scheme.

“This is an industry that has historical health and safety issues. It’s a very hard industry to work in: lifting massive slabs of meat resulting in injury for many workers; repetitive strain; back pain. It’s a very difficult environment to work in, so not having any kind of sick pay scheme shows the massive lack of value for workers.

“All the workers we [MRCI] spoke to just felt they are not valued at all. There’s a broader fundamental issue around employers with them not providing sick pay schemes and, in particular, there are so many accidents and injuries in the workplace and they [employers] do not want to be liable for that.”