Meat, poultry sector practically rotten for migrants

EHRC inquiry reveals mistreatment, exploitation

poultry-worker2.png17 March 2010: Mistreatment and exploitation of migrant and agency workers in the meat and poultry processing sector is not a myth.

An inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has come out with evidence of widespread mistreatment and exploitation.

The inquiry found workers reporting physical and verbal abuse. Besides this, they also complained of improper health and safety protection. The treatment of pregnant workers was particularly a matter of concern.

The inquiry also found the many workers were by and large ignorant of their rights. They apprehended that raising concerns could lead to their dismissal from service. British agency workers too were not unaffected. They too faced similar mistreatment.

The inquiry further found violation of the law and licensing standards in meat processing factories and the agencies that supply workers to them. Some of the factories supply to the UK’s biggest supermarkets. The report has also brought to fore flouting of minimum ethical trading standards and basic human rights.

Reacting to the report, British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has said the practices found in some parts of the industry were completely unacceptable in a modern food industry and in the society.

BMPA Director Stephen Rossides said he was meeting ECHR this week to discuss the report.

The Commission has made a number of recommendations, including processing firms and agencies to use fair and transparent recruitment practices and provide workers with a safe working environment free from discrimination and harassment, where they are able to raise issues of concern without fear of the consequences.

Some of the other recommendations are supermarkets to improve their support to and auditing of suppliers; government to provide sufficient resources for the GLA to deliver on its task of safeguarding the welfare and interests of workers and broaden its remit to include other sectors where low-paid agency workers are at risk of exploitation

The Commission is expected to review action taken over the next 12 months by supermarkets, processing firms and recruitment agencies. Enforcement action will be considered, if necessary.

Supermarket group Asda has joined hands with the union Unite to jointly deal with discrimination against the migrant workers in its meat and poultry factories in the UK (See:

According to the deal, Asda will require its suppliers to put to an end the practice of paying migrants less, compared to the indigenous employees, for the same work. The suppliers will also be asked create to permanent jobs for agency workers after a fixed period.

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