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 100 cases in two meat factories – are we importing Covid along with cheap labour? 

As reported here a week ago, not only were work permits being issued to people coming from outside of the EU, but a large number had arrived in the first weeks of January from Brazil. Yes, from the country with the “deadly new strain” of the Covid virus.

And as sure as night follows day, last night Monday it was confirmed that there has been yet another outbreak of at least 100 cases of Covid in at least two meat factories, the Anglo Beef Producers plant at Bandon in Cork, and at Slaney Meats in Bunclody, Wexford.

66 cases of Covid-19 have been identified at Anglo Beef, while Slaney Meats confirmed 42 cases at its plant in Bunclody.

We do not yet have the breakdown of the companies who were granted work permits in January, but we have the updated figures for 2020, which confirm that there were a further 1,125 permits issued in the month of December which brings the total to above 16,000 – an increase on the number for 2019 despite the pandemic.

Again, as we pointed out (and none of the other few outlets who have even mentioned it have even hinted at) this is quite extraordinary during a period when the entire country from Malin to Mizen Head has been to all intents and purposes shut down for most of the year.

One of the consequences of the lockdown has been a massive increase in the numbers of people out of work. Are the tech companies, nursing homes and food processors who are the main beneficiaries of work permits seriously claiming that none of the 16,420 positions could have been filled here, or even from within other EU countries?

We do not have any specific details to associate the outbreaks at the ABP and Slaney plants with workers employed on permits, but it is reasonable to assume on the basis of what we do know about the outbreaks last summer, that there is a high likelihood that most of those infected came here from overseas.

Indeed, far from being chastened by the experience of all of that, the meat processors have continued as we proved before to import people from high risk countries, Brazil in particular. In December, ABP was issued with 20 permits, and Slaney with 25.

Let us be clear, none of this is an indictment of the people who come here. It is an indictment of a low wage economic sector and a compliant political elite that facilitated it. What is the point of anyone observing any of the restrictions if the state itself makes a mockery of them by taking in large numbers of people from countries where the virus is not only rife, but two of which have their very own variant which is causing new problems even as the promised vaccine is rolled out.

The response is often, oh “sure no Irish people would do this work.” That is nonsense, and particularly pathetic when it comes from people on the left who are regurgitating all the old bromides that the Brits used to throw about regarding the “lazy Paddies.” Punch meets the Socialist Worker.

It is, of course, supposedly incumbent on any employer who advertises through agencies outside of the EU/EEA zone to first seek to fill positions here. This is meant to be done through the Department of Social Protection. It would actually be interesting to discover to what extent the existence of those jobs are made publicly known. Are they advertised locally for example? Are people on the live register with skills in the particular sectors notified?

In the case of Slaney Meats, their own website claims to have openings for meat trimmers and boners, but none for butchers, general operatives and packers. This company employed 147 people on work permits last year, and is still recruiting outside of the EU. IrishJobs.ie claims that there are currently no vacancies at Slaney Meats.

The same by the way applies to the tech companies. We are all the time told what a gifted, technologically-educated young population and potential workforce we have. Much of the third level education system and indeed second level is focused on this. And yet how many of us know of family members or friends of younger family members who have qualifications but who not only do not get jobs in places like Google and Facebook and Amazon, but who do not even hear about them. All the while those companies are importing thousands of people from elsewhere, and companies based here are contracting out to locations based a long way from here.

The response of the Government is truly pathetic. Whether it is attributable to incompetence or something worse will await future historians, if there are any after the education sector has been turned into an identity studies workshop.

All the while they have been implementing Kafkaesque levels of internal surveillance and restrictions on the “natives”, they have been blithely allowing planeloads of agency workers to fly in because their parties are deeply compromised by the beneficiaries who own the big meat processors and tech companies.

Personally, I don’t believe that masks make much of a difference, but will wear one in a shop or on public transport. Not out of any deference to the state, but out of courtesy to my fellow citizens and the bus drivers and retailer workers and security people whose jobs don’t need to be made any more difficult by my obtuseness.

Then, you hear all of what is going on anyway in relation to the facilitation of illegal immigration and rack renting and race to the bottom employment. And you wonder, why bother? We bother, I suppose, because we are hopefully better than the people who think they own the place, rather than serve those who have to live here.

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