Germany: exploitation in the meat industry

On May 9 the authorities closed the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in Coesfeld, Germany, because 191 employees had become infected with the coronavirus. This fuelled a discussion about the questionable situation of cheap Eastern European workers in Germany's agricultural and food sector, which has now become a problem for society as a whole due to the risk of infection.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

The weakest in the system worst affected

Gazeta Wyborcza describes the working conditions that favour infection:

“Many of those infected are Romanians and citizens of other Eastern European countries who for years have been providing the cheap labour that keeps the German meat industry up and running. Strict hygiene regulations apply in slaughterhouses. But these people work in cold rooms, and the virus survives longer at low temperatures. What's more, they can't maintain a safe distance from their co-workers. The worst thing, however, is that at the end of the day the guest workers go back to shared dormitories where they live in the most humble conditions. Not only is physical distancing difficult, but also complying with hygiene regulations.”

Webcafé (BG) /

Time to tackle this problem

The corona crisis has exposed a long-standing injustice, writes Webcafé:

“In the slaughterhouses the prevailing opinion is that the slaughter work is too hard and unattractive for Germans, which forces the butchers to hire Romanians, Bulgarians and Poles who have proven over the years to be patient, hard-working and unproblematic labourers. ... Now the coronavirus infections are bringing the subject back to the surface. Despite all Berlin's good intentions, Germany still has a problem with racism and exploitation. Will something be done about it this time, or are the cheap meat and vegetables that 'pick themselves' simply too good to give up even after the current crisis?”