TDs demand HSA and WRC inspect Keeling’s sites and workers accommodation

People Before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith and Gino Kenny have released a statement on the controversy over the actions of the Keeling’s company bringing in workers on a Ryanair flight to pick fruit at their sites across Dublin.

The TDs are demanding that both the HSA and the WRC inspect the facilities to insure the workers are housed and working in conditions which will allow for social distancing and isolation if needed. They condemned both Keeling’s and Ryanair for what they called “gross exploitation of workers and complete disregard for their safety and the safety of wider community”.

They said:

“Many people were rightly shocked by footage of large numbers of people coming off a Ryanair flight last night. Reports suggest the flight was full, that no social distancing could be implemented, and the workers are due to work as fruit pickers in Keeling’s sites. Many are rightly outraged that Ryanair could pack a flight and that Keeling’s could have such little regard for the safety of these workers and the wider community.

“While ordinary people are in lockdown with only essential work carried out, we have heard of multiple stories of employers and business trying to get around the rules. Many employers are trying to get workers to carry out non-essential work or failing to implement safety rules because of costs.

“Keeling’s, a 300-million-euro multinational business, have shown utter disregard for the safety of their workforce and the wider community. The government and the relevant authorities such as the HSA have been asleep and refused to enforce safety guidelines on many employers.

“Keeling’s and others thrive on low paid labour to carry out the essential work around food production. That’s how they make their money. We call on the Government to ensure these workers are paid properly and have accommodation that allows for social distancing and isolation if necessary. Keeling’s must be held to account for the safety and health of these workers. This means the WRC and the HSA must inspect the facilities where these workers will work and stay.

“Ryanair and Michael O’Leary must also be held to account; not only have they risked the health of their workers by operating a full flight but we know they have placed many of their workers on reduced hours while claiming state support to pay reduced wages. Last year they made 1 Billion euro in profits yet they treat their workforce disgracefully.

“This crisis has shown that many low paid jobs are essential to our societies health and well-being. From retail workers to farm workers we must end the abuse of essential workers and ensure their pay and conditions are decent.

“The workers now employed by Keeling’s are not the problem, their employer, Ryanair and the lack of Government regulation is. Our anger must be directed at these and not the workers themselves”.