Big COVID-19 Outbreak of 650 Cases Shuts Mega Meat-Packing House in Germany
June 21, 2020 (EIRNS)—Last Wednesday, June 17, a very large meat-processing plant was shut in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, with over 650 cases reported of COVID-19. For some weeks there have been clusters of cases at different sized meat packing plants, but this is a big outbreak, and causes concern for three important reasons: 1) disruptions to the farm and food chain; 2) suffering to the workers—many of whom are transient from Eastern Europe, low-paid and ill-housed; and 3) for the implications of continued spread of the virus, just at the time that Germany has lifted tough restrictions and opened its borders. Health officials and others are, however, being commended for widespread COVID-19 testing.
The meat-slaughter industry in Germany is under a spotlight. In May, the many COVID-19 clusters in German slaughterhouses revealed the very bad working and housing conditions among industry workers. One-third of them are foreign, and many workers come from Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, and live in the rough. Leaders in Germany’s food labor union NNG, said the infections are caused by a “sick system” that exploits its workers. Labor gang companies are typically subcontracted by the big meat- packing firms. Next year the use of contractors will be banned in German slaughterhouses and the meat-processing companies will have to directly hire all employees, or face fines of $16,800 to $30,000.
Outbreaks continue to show up in food-processing centers across Europe, such as a poultry plant in Wales. Internationally, it is the same picture, given how consolidated the cartel meat-packing system is. The other pattern of continued outbreaks is associated with migrant field and orchard laborers, and seasonal fruit and vegetable packing. There are significant outbreaks this month from Canada to Florida to Singapore.