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Germany to Protect Meatpacking Workers Better

Author: Grace Meng & Hugh Williamson, Human Rights Watch, Published on: 29 May 2020

The meatpacking industry in Germany [...] has recently seen outbreaks of Covid-19 at multiple facilities across the country, and hundreds of migrant workers from Eastern Europe have become infected...

Last week, the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed new rules for its meatpacking industry, a sector that employs many migrants and has a history of low wages, poor working conditions, and cramped company-provided accommodation. Under the proposed rules, which need to be adopted by Parliament, starting next year, Germany will ban the common industry practice of contracting out meat processing work... This practice has shielded German companies from legal responsibility for migrant workers’ employment conditions.

The new draft regulations also increase penalties when employees are required to work longer than the legal limit of 10 hours per shift and obligate employers to provide authorities with information on accommodation provided to migrant workers.

Separately, the cabinet also urged local authorities to implement additional measures to protect the health of meat industry workers during the pandemic...

The new rules in Germany won’t eliminate workers’ vulnerability to abuse altogether. Trade unions note that more regular inspections of meat processing plants are needed...

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