Union: Occupational health and safety in the meat industry “Milestone”

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Union: Occupational health and safety in the meat industry




Pork halves pass one of the control terminals in the cutting area of ​​a slaughterhouse in Lower Saxony.


© picture alliance / Ingo Wagner/dpa
Pork halves pass one of the control terminals in the cutting area of ​​a slaughterhouse in Lower Saxony.


The food-gourmet-restaurants union (NGG) has called the draft of the Occupational Safety and Health Control Act for the meat industry a “milestone”.

With the ban on work contracts and temporary work, he is finally addressing the basic problem, said the NGG chairman, Guido Zeitler, on Wednesday.

A stricter regulation of the industry is urgently needed, said Zeitler. This was clearly shown by the failed attempts by politicians to commit the meat industry to the union’s point of view. The law passed in 2017 to secure workers’ rights in the meat industry had also been undermined by companies in the past, emphasized Zeitler. It is remarkable and symptomatic if a separate protection law has to be made for an industry.

“Politicians have simply run out of patience,” said Gerhard Bosch, Professor of Work Sociology at the University of Duisburg-Essen. The new level of indignation that had arisen due to the accumulation of new corona infections in meat operations left politicians with no choice this time than to react quickly. The blatant conditions in the factories and in the accommodations are said to have contributed significantly to the spread of the virus in the companies.

Since the planned law is not based on a rethink in the industry, politicians must ensure pressure through sufficient controls and tough sanctions, said Bosch. The composition of the market with many large “players” makes it easier to carry out regular, random checks. “It is not said that the situation will change for the better, but the law certainly creates a better starting position.”

“We want 100 percent permanent workforce,” emphasized Ulrike Reichelt, works councilor in a meat processing company in Oldenburg. They also assume that the vast majority of non-company employees want to be permanently employed. There is no getting around the ban on both work contracts and temporary work. “If a contract for work and services is abolished, the companies will simply rebuild it through temporary work,” she fears.

The planned law will only allow company employees to slaughter and process meat from next year. It is planned that contracts for work and services will be prohibited from January 1, 2021 and temporary work from April 1, 2021. Butchers’ businesses with up to 49 employees are excluded. The debate flared up again because it is suspected that the working conditions could have promoted the massive corona infections of workers in meat plants in recent months.

In the legislative package, which still has to pass the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, further regulations are foreseen to improve occupational safety. The plans of Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) also provide for improved accommodation for workers, electronic working time recording and a minimum quota for health and safety checks. Heil had affirmed in July that the meat industry will be cleaned up thoroughly.

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