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Revealed: Exploitation Of Meat Plant Workers Rife Across UK And Europe

Revealed: exploitation of meat plant workers rife across UK and Europe

Thousands of outsourced workers on inferior pay and conditions to fulfil demand for cheap meat, investigation shows

Meat plant across Europe have been hiring thousands of workers through subcontractors, agencies and bogus co-operatives on inferior pay and conditions, a Guardian investigation has found.

Workers, officials and labour experts have described how Europe’s £190bn meat industry has become a global hotspot for outsourced labour, with a floating cohort of workers, many of whom are migrants, with some earning 40% to 50% less than directly employed staff in the same factories.

Evidence has been uncovered  of a two-tier employment system with workers subjected to sub-standard pay and conditions to fulfil the meat industry’s need for a replenishable source of low-paid, hyper-flexible workers.

About 1 million people work in Europe’s meat sector, with unions estimating that thousands of workers in some countries are precariously employed through subcontractors and agencies.

“The system is sick everywhere across Europe. It’s based on cheap prices for meat, on the exploitation of labour,” said Enrico Somaglia, deputy secretary general of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. “You have workers elbow to elbow doing the same work, but under different conditions.”

Workers often have undefined working hours, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employed status and no sick pay. Workers describe living in an extremely precarious state in countries where they do not speak the language and therefore struggle to understand their agreements and legal rights.

“They can fire you instantly and you can lose everything,” said a Romanian worker in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands – one of Europe’s largest meat exporters with sales worth €8.8bn (£7.5bn) last year – the labour inspectorate said migrants, primarily on precarious contracts, make up to 90% of the workforce.

The UK’s meat plant are struggling with a shortage of workers as they gear up for Christmas, as many of the eastern European workers employed in the sector returned to their home countries during the Covid pandemic and have not come back. Unions predict the use of agency and subcontracted migrant labour will become more prevalent because local people do not want to work in meat plants.

Unions are calling for an immediate Europe-wide ban on the use of precarious workers in meat plants. “Without a shadow of a doubt, agencies and subcontracted work should be banned,” said Bev Clarkson of Unite Union.

Serife Erol, researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, said: “If the meat processing companies cannot get the margins through selling the products, they have the opportunity of getting it through the payments of their workers.”

EU enlargement from 2004 – and free movement of people across Europe – brought a vast pool of people from Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Hungary willing to migrate for work opportunities.

Across Europe, the freedom of movement for workers has been misused, said Özlem Alev Demirel, MEP from the German Die Linke party. “Employers have depressed wages by bringing workers from countries where wages are lower, and the social security systems are weak, and this is not acceptable.” She said the principle of the same wage for the same work at the same place must be upheld across Europe.

As the economies of countries such as Poland improved, and the need for a replenishable source of cheap labour increased, the search has extended across the world to countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Georgia, India, China and Armenia.

Romanian agencies are now bringing workers across the world from south Asia, specifically Nepal and Sri Lanka. Their visas are dependent on the jobs they get; if they are fired, they become illegal immigrants. “In Romania, we are abusing Nepalese workers in the same way Romanians are abused elsewhere,” said Nora Labo, who worked for the Independent Workers Union in Ireland until earlier this year.

Nicolas Schmit, EU commissioner for jobs and social rights, said that it is up to member states to uphold labour law. “EU law is clear: all workers hired via agencies and subcontractors should be guaranteed the same rights as permanent employees. National authorities must enforce these rules.”

Karsten Maier, secretary general of UECBV, which represents 20,000 companies in the livestock and meat trade across Europe, as well as Japan, Russia and Ukraine, said labour conditions were not part of its work but were the responsibility of the companies, as well as the relevant authorities. “Abuse of any kind will not be tolerated,” said Maier, adding cases should be prosecuted accordingly.

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Business

Adopting CNG can reduce Nigeria’s inflation – FG

The Nigerian government has said that successfully adopting Compressed Natural Gas can reduce inflation, which soared to 33.69 per cent in April 2024.

The Programme Director of the Presidential Initiative on Compressed Natural Gas, Pi-CNG, Michael Oluwagbemi, disclosed this during a one-day South-South and South-East stakeholders’ engagement meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

He noted that Nigerians can realize between 40 to 50 per cent savings from petrol upon adopting CNG.

“It can reduce inflation. It is cheaper. You can realize between 40% and 50% savings from patrol. This is good for Nigeria, and it is safer.

“It is 18 times safer than petrol and diesel. It is cleaner and safer for the environment,” he said.

He added that Nigeria would save about $2.5 billion by converting every one million vehicles to CNG.

Recall that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu asked all federal government ministries, departments and agencies to procure CNG buses.

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Nigeria won’t need to import fuel by June — Dangote

Aliko Dangote, Chairman of the Dangote Group, announced that by next month, Nigeria will no longer need to import gasoline due to the operational plans of the Dangote Refinery.

Speaking as a panellist at the Africa CEO Forum Annual Summit in Kigali, Dangote highlighted that the refinery, which has already commenced supplying diesel and aviation fuel in Nigeria, has the capacity to fulfil the diesel and petrol needs of West Africa and the aviation fuel requirements for the entire African continent.

Dangote emphasised, “Right now, Nigeria has no cause to import anything apart from gasoline, and by sometime in June, within the next four or five weeks, Nigeria shouldn’t import anything like gasoline; not one drop of a litre.”

Highlighting how far the oil company has come, Dangote expressed how they are focused on ensuring that the continent will depend less on imports in the near future.

“We have enough gasoline to give to at least the entire West Africa, and diesel to give to West Africa and Central Africa. We have enough aviation fuel to give to the entire continent and also export some to Brazil and Mexico,” he said.

“Today, our polypropylene and our polyethene will meet the entire demand of Africa, and we are doing base oil, which is like engine oil; we are doing linear benzyl, which is a raw material to produce detergent. We have 1.4 billion people in the population; nobody is producing that in Africa.

“So, all the raw materials for our detergents are imported. We are producing that raw material to make Africa self-sufficient.

“As I said, give us three or a maximum of four years, and Africa will not, I repeat, not import any more fertiliser from anywhere.

“We will make Africa self-sufficient in potash, phosphate, and urea; we are at three million metric tonnes, and in the next twenty months, we will be at six million metric tonnes of urea, which is the entire capacity of Egypt. We are getting there.”

Dangote recalled how his dream for further investment in Africa as well as ending fuel importation in Africa has culminated in what is now one of the biggest refineries in the world.

“For some of us, despite the boom of the capital market in the US—you know, Google, Microsoft, and the rest—we didn’t participate; we took all our money and invested in Africa.

“We had this dream just about five years ago, and we said we wanted to move from five billion dollars in revenue to thirty billion dollars in revenue, and we made it happen. It is possible and now we have made it happen and now we have finished our refinery.

“Our refinery is quite big; it is something that we believe that Africa needs. If you look at the whole continent, there are only two countries that don’t import petroleum products, which is a tragedy.

“They are only Algeria and Libya. The rest are all importers. So, we need to change and make sure that we don’t just go and produce raw materials; we should also produce finished products and create jobs.

Speaking further, the African richest man said, “One of the things we also need to know as Africans is that we produce raw materials and export them when you export raw materials and somebody now keeps importing things into your continent and dumping goods. what you are importing is poverty and exporting jobs. So, we have to change that narrative.”

“We just commissioned in February, and now we are producing jet fuel, diesel, and by next month, gasoline.

“What that would do is that we would be taking most of the African crude that is being produced and also be able to supply not only Nigeria because our capacity is too big for Nigeria, but it would also supply West Africa, Central Africa, and also South Africa.

“We have 650,000 barrels per day, 1 million metric tonnes of polypropylene, and 590,000 metric tonnes of carbon black; those are the raw materials—ink, dyes and co.

“We are expanding more. This is the first phase and we are going out to the next phase, which will start early next year.”(tribune)

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Business

Customs FX rate for import duties rises to N1,530/$

The foreign exchange (FX) rate for import duties has been adjusted by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to N1,530 per dollar.

This was adopted on Friday, May 17, representing a 6.13 percent increase compared to the N1,441.58 adopted on May 6.

The NCS always adopts FX rates recommended by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for import duties based on trading activities in the official FX market

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