Pregnant women attribute miscarriage to conditions in meat sector

A third of workers are migrants

22nd March 2010
: Less than a week after Equality and Human Rights Commission came out with evidence of widespread mistreatment and exploitation of migrant and agency workers in the meat and poultry processing sector, more startling facts have surfaced.

It is now clear that a third of workers in the meat processing sector are migrants, who told the inquiry they worked every day of the week in shifts lasted between 16 and18 hours. The maximum number of hours worked a week regularly was 90 hours.

As a result, the workers spoke of pains to their limbs and extreme fatigue, partly due to repetitive tasks on fast-moving production lines for extended periods.

The findings reveal it’s particularly bad for the women workers. Some women workers said they were verbally abused by the line managers more than men and there were instances of sexual harassment

Pregnant women are compelled to stand for long hours in factory production lines without breaks. They are also forced to do tasks involving heavy lifting under threat of the sack.

The women attributed miscarriages to the appalling conditions. Some said they were given no further work once managers learned they were pregnant.
Women with heavy periods are refused toilet breaks. As a result, they bled on their clothes on the production lines.

This is not all. The workers with bladder problems are refused breaks so they urinated on themselves; some others are exposed to verbal and physical abuse.

The meat factory workers have frozen hamburgers hurled at them like stones by line managers. A Polish meat factory said the managers would even pull their clothes and shout.

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.
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