EHRC calls for better managing practices in meat processing plants

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is asking meat and poultry processors to prove they have improved employment practices, a year after issuing recommendations on the treatment of migrant workers.

The commission has sent out questionnaires to assess progress made by meat processors in managing practices since it found evidence of mistreatment and exploitation of migrant and agency workers in 2010.

Alice Teague, EHRC policy head, told Meat Trades Journal: “We had sufficient evidence to take enforcement measures in 2010, but we decided to give the meat industry a second chance, and time to make changes.

“We are now trying to encourage them to provide us with information about the changes they made, so we can get a snapshot of the industry a year after the recommendations.”

Questionnaires must be sent out by Friday 11 November, and Teague added that the EHRC would ask for evidence of the changes. The commission is also interviewing workers to find out what conditions they work in, and is prepared to launch investigations based on their statements.

The EHRC has been working with a task force composed of representatives from all areas of the meat industry, including major retailers, the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) and the British Poultry Council (BPC), and recently released guidelines for recruitment and employment practices. They include implementing an equal opportunities policy, creating confidential communications channels accessible to non-English speakers, clearly recording working hours and providing the same training to directly employed and agency workers.

BMPA director Stephen Rossides said: “This is a very positive and concrete outcome of positive collaborative work over several months. We will urge BMPA member companies to adopt these practices, which will help to ensure fair and proper treatment of all workers, while retaining the ability of companies to flexibly manage their workforce in line with their business circumstances and their customers’ requirements.”

The main recommendations issued by the EHRC following the inquiry in 2010 included fairer and more transparent recruitment, improving communication so workers could voice their concerns, promoting dignity and equality at work, and ensuring the health and safety of agency and migrant workers.

Teague added that reactions to the review, had been varied. “They ranged from complete denial to acknowledgement of the bad practices going on. Some meat processing plant directors just hadn’t been aware that there were problems, because they didn’t go past the line managers,” she said.

> Main points of the 2010 EHRC inquiry

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