What could change now in the meat industry

After the corona cases in the meat industry, the focus is on the working conditions in the industry. What should be changed and how? Answers to the most important questions.

Lowest wages and mass accommodation: The unfair treatment of Eastern European workers in German slaughterhouses is a social problem, but in the Corona crisis it also becomes a health risk for everyone.

"It is time to clean up and take action in this area," said Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) on Monday (May 18, 2020). The debate creates movement in politics – and raises questions.

What is happening with the rules for the meat industry?

On Tuesday (May 19, 2020), Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) and his Romanian counterpart Violeta Alexandru will sign a memorandum on occupational safety. Many employees in the meat industry come from Romania.

In Heils assessment, Wednesday (May 20th, 2020) is "the day of decision". His proposal for stricter rules in the meat industry will then be discussed in the cabinet. For the Union, that part of the concept that wants to forbid companies to cede responsibility for employees to subcontractors goes too far.

Regardless of this, the Westfleisch company announced on Monday that it would be parting with a subcontractor that has become aware of a particularly large number of corona cases. Westfleisch wants to take over the affected 350 employees. In addition, the company wants to take care of their tenancy agreements and their transport to the plants.

How do new rules affect the consumer??

Better wages and more occupational health and safety will probably lead to higher prices. Currently, meat is sometimes so cheap because unfair wages are paid and environmental damage is not factored in, said Robert Schmidt, professor of microeconomics at the Fernuniversitat Hagen, on Tuesday morning in the ARD information night.

Higher prices would benefit the farmers and Schlachhof employees. "If you introduce the minimum price, you would artificially eliminate price competition and turn it into a quality competition," says Professor Schmidt.

When the providers can no longer compete on price, competition will shift. The question then is: who works most regionally, most ecologically, most fairly for employees and animals? This effect in turn benefits the consumer via the meat quality.

How much should meat cost?

This question is controversial. Robert Habeck, party chairman of the Greens, wants to draw a "lower stop line" with a minimum price, for example, as he said on Tuesday in the ZDF morning magazine. Dumping prices that are below the production price should be prohibited.

Dietmar Bartsch, chairman of the parliamentary group "Die Linke", on the other hand, said in the ZDF morning magazine that the debate about food prices ignores the reality of many people’s lives. The system change demanded by the Greens is necessary. But the schnitzel should not be used for social division. It must remain affordable.

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