C: El Nariz / Shutterstock

Covid 19: Meat packing workers lift veil on pandemic numbers

I don’t know if it is just myself and my incompetence with the interweb, but it seems to be more difficult with each day to find accurate statistics on the Covid 19 crisis. 

Few mainstream outlets, and certainly not official ones, provide easily accessible data on some of the key aspects of how the pandemic has impacted on the population. That is particularly the case when it comes to recognising that there have been very few infections and deaths among the under 35s.

Unfortunately the virus has been disproportionately visited on the over 65s who have accounted for the vast bulk of deaths. That has demonstrated that the virus is quite similar to the seasonal or “winter” flu where certain groups are the most vulnerable to infection and death, despite the greater likelihood of elderly people being given the vaccine.

The reluctance to properly process the statistics, coupled with the increasing intolerance shown towards any dissenting voices such as Prof. Dolores Cahill who have the temerity to question the narrative, suggests that some would prefer that not too much attention is paid to the actual evidence regarding infection, recovery and deaths. The lack of more detailed data is becoming more obvious as the crisis appears to have passed for the most part, but most of the restrictions remain imposed for another indefinite period.

There is clearly mounting evidence that the justification for restrictions on children attending school and otherwise healthy people returning to work is flimsy.

The ongoing panic within the meat processing factor highlights some of the issues. The basic facts are that by Tuesday there had been 828 confirmed cases of people working within processing plants having become infected with the virus.

The cases were discovered at 16 different plants. The interesting aspect to that is that presumably few, if any, of those tested in the plants would have had a test had it not been for the reporting of the earlier cases. Which begs the question as to how many people of that working age cohort and younger have or have had the virus but it has not been not detected because its symptoms were not serious enough to persuade them to have a test?

Of the hundreds of meat processors tested, just 15 were hospitalised and none thankfully died. Of those who were found to have the virus 60% had returned to work earlier this week.

One meat factory employee in Ireland, Luciana da Silva who worked at the Moy Park plant in Dungannon, died from the virus. She was 58 which unfortunately placed her in one of the more vulnerable age cohorts apart from whatever other issues affected the prevalence of infection within the meat factories. Other countries have had similar rates of infection among meat workers, but with similar low death rates – 45 in total, or less than 0.50% in the United States.

It is also the case that a large proportion of those employed are migrant workers. Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland when asked about this provided a meaningless figure of 80% of workers being Irish or EU nationals, and 20% on work permits. That does not indicate how many non-Irish meat factory workers there are.

We do know that €10.50 per hour is the average wage in some of the plants hit by the virus, and we can assume that applies across the board, despite SIPTU’s claim to represent most of the workforce.

As in other sectors where large numbers of workers have been employed through overseas agencies, there have been problems here regarding the actual rate paid to employees after the agency takes its cut. This has prompted official changes to the permit system although to what affect remains in question.

There are also questions regarding the living conditions of migrant workers in the meat sector, which is a reflection of low wages and the significant transient nature of the workforce itself. As with Keelings and other sectors like bars and hotels, the meat factory affair has lifted a veil on the nature of the economy which during the recent “boom” has continued to transition to a low wage casual structure.

The statistics from the meat plants regarding the relationship between age, infection, recovery and death speak for themselves with regard to the overall impact of the pandemic and how it has been dealt with.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are open

Do you agree with Senator Keogan that people on long-term unemployment benefit should have to do community service for the money?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...