Wednesday 22 March 2023

Meat packers ‘forced to deny coronavirus symptoms’, MPs call for answers


MPs are calling for an investigation into possible illegal practices concerning workers’ health at a meat packing plant in Helmond and are urging government action.

Workers at Van Rooi Meat, one of the largest slaughterhouses in the Netherlands, told public broadcaster NOS that managers at the plant had urged them to tick the ‘healthy’ box on the daily declaration they are required to sign, even if they had symptoms of coronavirus.

The eight workers who spoke to the broadcaster are from different European countries and work via a jobs agency. They said they had continued to work even when they showed symptoms of coronavirus because they were afraid they would no longer be called in for work.

In May the company had to close for two weeks when a large number of workers were found to be infected with coronavirus. According to the workers the first of two probes by the local health board had been manipulated because they had been told to stay at home.

Van Rooi director Marc van Rooi has denied the allegations, saying his primary concern was to keep the company coronavirus free.  He also denied that sick workers would lose their jobs. ‘Let them say tick ‘yes’ on the form [to say they have symptoms, DN] and let’s see what happens,’ he told NOS.

Socialist MP Frank Futselaar said the events highlight the vulnerability of people on temporary contracts. ‘I tabled a motion before the summer to make employers give these workers a fixed contract. Perhaps this will convince a majority of MPs to go ahead with this,’ he told the broadcaster.

The plant should be closed immediately so further infection can be prevented, PvdD MP Frank Wassenberg said. ‘All the local health board has said is it will increase the number of spot checks and the regional safety board will not close the company down. It is now up to the minister to intervene.’

The urgency of the situation is such that MPs want the meeting to discuss the increasing number of coronavirus infection in the Netherlands to be brought forward to Wednesday.

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