Preventive corona tests for more than 200 fruit sector workers

Fruit rose in price 4.3% last year

More than 200 workers at two fruit sector companies in Gelderland are to be tested for coronavirus after a number of colleagues were infected.

The 160 people working for Fruitmasters, an auction site in Geldermalsen, and 80 staff at packing firm Vogelaar-Vredehof in Enspijk, have been told to self-isolate until the results are known.

The preventive tests are among the first to be carried out since the government expanded capacity at the start of this month. Contact tests have been carried out on 31 people, 13 of whom were positive, after a small number of workers discovered they were infected last week.

Most of those working at the two sites are labour migrants from eastern Europe. A spokesman for Fruitmasters said: ‘We are pleased that these tests have been made available on a larger scale since June 1.’

Food processing companies employing migrant workers have been at the centre of several coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks. An abattoir in Groenlo was closed after one-fifth of the workforce tested positive, while police shut another slaughterhouse in Apeldoorn last week on the orders of the local mayor because staff were being transported to the site in minibuses, in breach of safety measures.

Both facilities belonged to meat company Vion, whose workers at a meat processing plant in Scherpenzeel, Gelderland, were ordered into quarantine at the start of May after 28 people tested positive.

Ambassador concerned

Romania’s ambassador has written to the Dutch government expressing concern about conditions for workers in slaughterhouses and calling for ‘increased controls in the meat processing industry’.

MPs called on Tuesday for regulations on employment agencies, which supply foreign workers to food producers, to be tightened up to avoid exploitation and abuse. Agencies no longer need a license to operate and a majority of companies do not have the industry’s own voluntary certification standard.

Coalition parties CDA and D66 want the standard to be made obligatory, although trade unions are so dissatisfied with the certification process that they no longer participate in it. A majority of MPs voted for the cabinet to investigate the option, but the cabinet is opposed to restricting the free movement of labour.

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