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

Meat Plant

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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UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Thursday defended her economic plan and shrugged off the negative reaction from financial markets, saying she’s willing to make “difficult decisions” to get the economy growing.

In her first public comments since the government’s announcement of billions in uncosted tax cuts roiled markets and drove the pound to record lows, Truss said Britain was facing “very, very difficult economic times.” But she said the problems were global and spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She spoke after the Bank of England took emergency action Wednesday to stabilize U.K. financial markets and head off a crisis in the broader economy after the government spooked investors with a program of unfunded tax cuts, sending the pound tumbling and the cost of government debt soaring.

Truss told BBC local radio that “we had to take urgent action to get our economy growing, get Britain moving and also deal with inflation.”

“Of course lots of measures we have announced won’t happen overnight. We won’t see growth come through overnight,” she said. “What is important is that we are putting this country on a better trajectory for the long term.”

In a series of interviews, Truss said her government’s decision to cap energy bills for households and businesses would help tame inflation and help millions of people facing a cost of living crisis.

But it was not that decision that alarmed the markets. It was the government’s announcement on Friday of an economic stimulus program that included 45 billion pounds ($48 billion) of tax cuts and no spending reductions — without an independent economic assessment of the cost and impact.

The Bank of England warned that crumbling confidence in the economy posed a “material risk to U.K. financial stability,” and said it would buy long-term government bonds over the next two weeks to combat a recent slide in British financial assets.

The bank’s former governor, Mark Carney said that the government and the central bank appeared to be pulling in different directions.

“Unfortunately having a partial budget, in these circumstances — tough global economy, tough financial market position, working at cross-purposes with the Bank — has led to quite dramatic moves in financial markets,” he told the BBC.

The pound traded at around $1.08 on Thursday, above its record low of $1.0373 on Monday. It has lost some 4% of its value since Friday.

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Stimulus Packages Provided During Pandemic Triggered Inflation- CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has attributed the rising inflationary rates to the stimulus packages provided to citizens during and after the pandemic.

It added that although this increased spending, it also created global supply challenges.

CBN’s director, Monetary Policy Department, Hassan Mahmoud, said this on Wednesday at a post-MPC briefing tagged: “Unveiling Facts behind the Figures’’.

The Monetary Policy Committee had on Tuesday, unanimously voted to increase interest rate to 15.5 per cent.

“A lot of households and small businesses were injected with stimuluses; the U.S did two trillion dollars, Nigeria did about five trillion Naira, these increased the ability of people to spend.

“But the supply side could not meet up with the demand because that volume of injection was far more than the regular intake for those economies, this made prices go up,’’ he said.

Mahmoud also blamed the Russian-Ukraine war, as well as the resurgence of COVID-19 in China for the rise in global inflationary trend.

“That region accounts for more than 50 per cent of global commodity supply and 38 per cent of global oil and gas supply. The war resulted in some shortages which made prices go up.

“Then the COVID-19 lockdown in China. The country is the largest importer of commodities across the globe,’’ he added.

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China’s yuan slides to 14-year low against US dollar

China’s yuan slides to 14-year low against US dollar

China’s yuan fell to a 14-year low against the dollar Wednesday despite US central bank efforts to stem the slide after U.S. interest rate hikes prompted traders to convert money into dollars in search of higher returns.

A weaker yuan helps Chinese exporters by making their goods cheaper abroad, but it encourages capital to flow out of the economy. That raises costs for Chinese borrowers and sets back the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to boost weak economic growth.

The yuan fell to 7.2301 to the dollar, its lowest level since January 2008. One yuan was worth about 13.8 cents, down 15% from its March high.

The yuan has exceeded expectations it might fall to 7 to the dollar after the Federal Reserve started aggressive rate hikes to cool inflation that is at a four-decade high. The Fed has raised rates five times this year and says more increases are likely.

By contrast, the People’s Bank of China has cut interest rates to boost growth that fell to 2.2% over a year earlier in the first six months of 2022 — less than half the official 5.5% target.

The yuan is allowed to fluctuate up or down 2% from its starting price each day in tightly controlled trading. That prevents big daily swings, but down days can add up to a big change over time.

To shore up the exchange rate, Beijing cut the amount of foreign currency deposits Chinese banks are required to hold as reserves to 6% from 8% as of Sept. 15. That increases the amount of dollars and other foreign currency available to buy yuan, which should push up the exchange rate.

Still, that reserve cut is unlikely to stop a slide that is driven by “a strong U.S. dollar and the expectation of more Federal Reserve hikes,” said Iris Pang of ING in a report.

“Less aggressive rate hike talk” might help the yuan rally, but it might weaken further “if the Fed maintains its very hawkish tone” into next year, Pang wrote.

Chinese officials have previously promised to avoid “competitive devaluation” to gain an advantage in trade.

The yuan sank in 2019 during trade tension with then-President Donald Trump. That prompted suggestions Beijing was trying to reduce the impact of U.S. tariff hikes, but there was no official confirmation. The currency later strengthened.

Other governments also are struggling to manage capital flows under pressure from Fed rate hikes. On Friday, Vietnam’s central bank raised a key interest rate in what economists said appeared to be an effort to stop an outflow of money in search of higher returns.

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