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Plans to Eliminate Line Rules Endangers Workers

by 5m Editor
1 February 2008, at 12:21pm

US – The United States Department of Agriculture has come under fire for its recent proposal to water down safety guidelines put in place for both worker, and consumer, protection in the poultry industry.

Mark Lauritsen

The action group, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), will join consumer advocates at public meetings on February 5-6 in opposition of the proposal.

The proposal, entitled "Public Health-Based Slaughter Inspection System" (PHBSIS), will remove maximum line speed regulations and further subject poultry workers to dangerous workplace conditions. The proposed system also increases the risk of food-borne illnesses by weakening the on-line poultry inspection process.

The dangerous work conditions faced by workers in the poultry industry have been documented by academics, the media and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and line speeds have been linked to musculoskeletal disorders and debilitating injuries—including lacerations and amputations. Poultry workers often face physically demanding, repetitive work, during which they stand for long periods of time in production lines that move very quickly while wielding knives or other cutting instruments. They often work in extreme temperatures and make up to 40,000 repetitive cutting motions per shift. Worker safety will play no role under the PHBSIS proposal, and the new system will allow poultry slaughter establishments to run their lines with no maximum line speed—guaranteeing a rise in workplace injuries.

Line speeds have also been linked to food contamination, and the new proposal may put consumers at risk of food-borne illnesses by removing on-line FSIS inspectors who are trained to inspect bird carcasses for contaminated material—including fecal matter. Under the new system, poultry slaughter establishments will be allowed to monitor the poultry carcass inspection process themselves.

"Over 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in an effort to shed light on the unhealthy and dangerous working conditions in meat packing plants, and it is amazing that the poultry industry would be allowed to turn back the clock and dismantle our last line of defense against workp lace injuries and food-borne illnesses," said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. "We urge members of Congress to join the UFCW in opposing this misguided proposal in order to protect the health and safety of our workers and families."

5m Editor