Germany's meat industry under fire after COVID-19 outbreaks

The German government is poised to approve better protections for workers in the meat industry. The squalid living quarters and unsafe working conditions aren't new, but COVID-19 has prompted politicians to finally act.


Rebecca Staudenmaier, Deutsche Welle (Germany)



Following coronavirus outbreaks at several German meatpacking facilities, Germany's labor minister is leading the charge to give more protections to workers — in a plan that could radically change the way Germany's meat industry operates.


The German government's "Coronavirus Cabinet" is due to meet on Wednesday to decide on Labor Minister Hubertus Heil's proposals to improve oversight in the industry and protections for workers — including making companies directly responsible for their workers and raising fines for safety violations to €30,000 ($32,800).


Heil, a member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), has particularly taken aim at what he termed the industry's "dubious contract structures with subcontractors" and is pushing for an outright ban on such types of labor arrangements.


"This type of sub-subcontracting is the root of evil — because responsibility is passed off, because worker's rights are violated, because wages are cut," Heil said last week in an address to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.


Those plans have bumped up against resistance with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in the coalition government. A final decision on the plans was expected Monday but was pushed back several days for more talks.


Conditions for workers ...


Poor working conditions 'not isolated cases' ...


Parallels to US outbreaks ...


Meat industry says conditions 'not to blame' for outbreak ...


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