Concerns about corona infections for migrant workers, ‘broader investigation really necessary’

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20 percent of the employees of slaughterhouse Vion in Groenlo infected with the coronavirus. It is not yet certain how it is that the infection rate is so high. Tight housing may play a role.

Slaughterhouse employees are often labor migrants from Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. They are deployed through an employment agency. “I am not a virologist, but many employees sleep together, almost cough over each other, go to work together on a bus and sometimes share a kitchen with up to 40 people. It is difficult to keep a meter and a half away,” says Bart Picture of FNV.

Minister Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Safety says that the slaughterhouses are ready for tomorrow evening demonstrate insufficiently that they should do everything possible to prevent corona infections. The inspections will not only focus on the situations in the slaughterhouses, but also on how personnel are transported and how they live.

Risks in other sectors

Migrant workers work not only in the meat sector, but also in agriculture, horticulture, construction and distribution centers. Dick Veerman, editor-in-chief of Foodlog, says in With a view to Tomorrow that after corona contamination in meat processing companies, contamination in other sectors is awaiting. “Safety regions and GGDs should now investigate this and not only focus on slaughterhouses,” says Veerman.

Of the estimated 400,000 migrant workers in the Netherlands, 12,000 work in the meat industry. Veerman calls the high contamination level of 20 percent in slaughterhouses “alarming” and therefore wants to test more widely. “I find it inconceivable that this should not be investigated more widely in other sectors where many migrant workers work.”

The FNV union has been calling for attention to the living conditions of migrant workers for some time. Vice President Tuur Elzinga calls the problem “very topical” because of corona infections in slaughterhouses: “The medieval situation where your boss is also your landlord must be over.”

Supervision of enforcement of corona measures is fragmented. Elzinga: “The security regions are about housing, the police about transport, the labor inspectorate and the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority about safety.” In a letter FNV advocates a structural approach.

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