How increasing slaughter line speeds impact worker safety and animal welfare: Reflections from the Canadian context
Sarah Berger Richardson, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, slaughterhouses have been at the epicentre of disease transmission. COVID-19 outbreaks in slaughterhouses are linked to high-speed production lines that require employees to work elbow-to-elbow and that make physical distancing difficult. Speed is central to modern methods of meat production. Slaughterhouses are designed to disassemble thousands of animals daily into food as quickly and cheaply as possible. Mandating line speed reductions can disrupt the supply chain causing financial hardship for producers. However, there are also social costs to maintaining speeds at current levels. These predate the pandemic but were exacerbated by it. This presentation will reflect on some of the negative externalities of high-speed meat processing production lines, especially the ways they impact working conditions and animal welfare in Canada and the United States.
Renewing labour relations in the German meat industry?
Serife Erol-Vogel, Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) at the Hans Böckler Stiftung and Ruhr-University Bochum Faculty of Social Science
Over the course of 2020, repeated outbreaks of COVID-19 in a number of large German meat processing plants led to a legislation renewal to provide enhanced inspection on health and safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Inspection Act bans the use of contract work in the slaughterhouses and limits the use of temporary agency employees. It has been a long tradition in Germany to effectively repudiate any responsibility for workers in their core operations by sourcing labour through service contracts. The upshot has been almost daily reports of major breaches of basic legal protections for workers on such contracts, most of whom originate from Eastern Europe. Since the announcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Inspection Act there is a prospect of a profound change in employment practices and labour relations in the meat industry. This presentation will reflect upon the German meat sector and its labour relations. What led to the introduction of the new regulation and how it will help to tackle the labour issues in the sector.
Reflections on the working conditions in the Dutch meat industry: a trade union perspective
John Klijn, Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV)
In the Dutch meat industry working conditions are very poor, flex workers earn just above the minimum wage, and migrant workers are also faced with poor housing conditions, relying on their employer - the employment agencies. The Covid pandemic has put the meat sector under a magnifying glass, because of the cluster infections of migrant workers. But the vulnerabilities and working conditions have been known for ages. Health and safety and working time laws are violated, and trade unions are not given access to the work floor. Also, migrant workers who speak out about abuses are told that they do not have to come back.
FNV wants people with a flex contract in the meat industry to be employed permanently by the slaughterhouses. The unions advocated this in a letter to Minister Wouter Koolmees. The meat industry employs 12,000 people. On the work floor, 90% work on a flex contract while the work is structural, 80% of them are migrant workers. In Germany, tens of thousands of migrant workers have now been hired as permanent employees since the state imposed it last year.
Who cares about rights of EU mobile workers in Dutch slaughterhouses in times of, and beyond, COVID-19?
Tesseltje de Lange, Centre for Migration Law, Radboud University, Nijmegen
Some massive COVID-19 outbreak in a slaughterhouse in the Netherlands, forced slaughterhouses to shut down. Roughly 80 percent of the workers in the meat industry are from Central and Eastern Europe. These outbreaks have helped to catalyze the recognition that East European migrant workers in this industry occupy a vulnerable position. This presentation presents preliminary findings from an interdisciplinary, research project ‘Migrant Workers on the Frontline’ that examines policy and enforcement measures to prevent such outbreaks and improve general well-being of key-migrant workers, also beyond COVID-19. The project focuses on sectors that rely heavily on migrant workers, such as slaughterhouses. Outbreaks in the meat industry in the Netherlands have helped uncover an ambiguity in the institutional cooperation between different levels of government in the European Union, its member states, and regionally. The Covid-19 crisis has brought extra-attention to the fact that migration is not only a transnational phenomenon involving a sending and receiving country but also a phenomenon with important cross-regional, local, and private business effects.
Sarah Berger Richardson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Civil law section) where she teaches food law, civil liability, and administrative law. She is President of the Canadian Association of Food Law and Policy and a member of the Law Society of Ontario. Her research focuses on the regulation of the agri-food sector, with a particular emphasis on farmed animals and the meat processing industry. She holds a Doctor of Civil Law from McGill University. In 2018-2019, she was a visiting fellow at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She completed her Masters of Law (LL.M) at Tel Aviv University, where she was a research fellow at the Manna Center in Food Safety and Security. Previously, she served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Israel and the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal.
Serife Erol-Vogel is a research associate at the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) at the Hans Böckler Stiftung and PhD candidate & Lecturer at the Ruhr-University Bochum Faculty of Social Science. Her research focuses on transformation of work, employment conditions and labour relations. For her master’s thesis she conducted qualitative research on working conditions and labour relations in the German meat sector and currently works on a follow-up project on the issues of German meat sector.
John Klijn has been FNV (Federation of Dutch Trade Unions) union leader for over 20 years, focusing on the meat industry. He is also the president of the pension fund in the meat sector.
Tesseltje de Lange is Professor of European Migration Law, and Director of the Centre for Migration Law (CMR) https://www.ru.nl/law/cmr/ both at Radboud University, Nijmegen. She is scientific leader of the presented project. From 2012 until December 2020 she was a member and vice-chair of the independent Dutch Advisory Committee on Migration Affairs. She regularly advises Dutch and EU authorities as well as private actors on migration policies and procedures. Her research focus is on economic migration, migrant entrepreneurship and migrant socio-economic rights. She publishes widely on labour migration related topics, see for instance ‘Political economy, law and the regulation of migrantsʼ workplaces’ in: Handbook on the Governance and Politics of Migration (Elgar Handbooks in Migration) eds. Carmel, Lenner & Paul. Co-authored with Berntsen & de Sena (2021); A new narrative for European migration policy: Sustainability and the Blue Card recast, European Law Journal 28 April 2021; “Migrant Entrepreneurship Enablers: From Chance Encounters to Community Development” in Work, Employment and Society”, co-authored with Berntsen, Hanoeman and Kalas and ‘Arbeidsmigranten (on)beschermd door de COVID-19-crisismaatregelen, Ars Aequi juli/augustus 2021, co-authored with Anita Böcker.
Organiser: Vladimir Bogoeski, Centre for Transformative Private Law, University of Amsterdam
For questions, please send an email to v.bogoeski(at)uva.nl
To register for the event and to recieve the zoom link, please email ACT-fdr(at)uva.nl