German meatpacker questioned for requesting government support after the outbreak of COVID-19
BERLIN (GERMANY) – The German meat processing company whose plant was on the verge of a COVID-19 outbreak that pushed the authorities to impose a local lockdown received flak from politicians on Sunday. It requested government support to cover quarantined workers’ pay.
The outbreak at meatpacker Toennies’ slaughterhouse in the western town of Guetersloh in June led to 1,500 workers getting infected. This in turn resulted in 600,000 people in the surrounding areas having to retreat into lockdown for two weeks.
It also threw open a national debate about the conditions in which workers, most of whom are foreigners, are working in Germany’s meat industry.
On Friday, the privately owned company, which employs 16,500 people and some 7 billion euros in annual revenues, requested financial aid from the government so that workers who have been quarantined without falling sick, could be paid, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
“I don’t have much sympathy with this,” Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “After an entire region was forced into lockdown, this will not help to lessen the public’s irritation.”
Germany’s long-standing law on preventing infectious diseases provides facilities to firms to support them if their workers are quarantined.
That sentiment was echoed by Karl-Josef Laumann, labour minister in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who said that while Toennies might have enough legal reasons to request for financial support, the company should be alert.
“If I were in the position of Mr Toennies and his business partners, I would think very hard about how much more we expect the people of North Rhine West-Phalia to put up with,” he told.
Toennies did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the same.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.