Germany is the country of cheap meat. Some meat products are even cheaper than in Bulgaria. However, the price for this is being paid by Eastern Europeans. Now the government wants to put an end to this absurdity, Jens Turau writes for Deutsche Welle.
Germany prohibits the employment of subcontracted workers in much of the meat processing industry. In addition, sanctions for violations of labor laws in the industry will be doubled. The rule will take effect in early 2021.
The decision was made extremely quickly. The reason: in several slaughterhouses in Germany, workers from abroad became infected en masse with the new coronavirus. Slaughterhouse conditions are, in fact, a topic that has been discussed in Germany for years. Cheap labor from Eastern Europe, hired by subcontractors, does the hard work against living in miserable conditions – people sleep in overcrowded dormitories for which they pay high rents. Until now, the industry has somehow managed to avoid imposing stricter restrictions – with some voluntary commitments. However, they did not work.
The tough battle for cheap meat
The battle for the price of meat, which the Germans love so much, is fierce. And in the end, it is this that leads to the unbearable working conditions of the people in the slaughterhouses. In the coronavirus crisis, what has not been possible for many years is suddenly possible.
Industry representatives have been protesting loudly since then, pointing out – not without reason – that subcontractors are being worked on in other sectors of the economy, such as construction. It is logical to ask whether this type of practice should now be banned only for the meat processing industry. And will working conditions really improve if companies in the industry comply with the new restrictions?
Until now, the control by the authorized state bodies was rather weak – due to the insufficient number of inspectors. That, too, needs to change. But still the beginning is set.
Now people in Germany, who love to eat sausages and grilled steaks, should not be surprised if meat becomes more expensive. Compared to other countries, Germans, Europe’s richest people, give less money for food and have long been spoiled by the policies of discounters who compete to offer the lowest price.
Some consumers shop at organic stores offering healthy organic food. But these people in Germany remain a small minority. We are outraged when we watch on television reports about the poor working conditions in slaughterhouses. Anyone who has seen working in a frozen pizza factory refuses to consume such food. But most people do not want to know from whom and how the meat we eat is produced. The important thing is that it is cheap.
Hopefully the lessons will lead to lasting changes
There is not much good news in the current coronavirus crisis. So far, it has caused a lot of suffering to the people. But it would be good if the lessons we learned quite quickly led to lasting changes – in slaughterhouses, asparagus fields, on the construction site, in the sector of care for the sick and the elderly. However, we will all have to contribute to this. In this case, this means: to pay a higher price for meat and to consume less meat products. And let’s not close our eyes to the inhuman conditions in the slaughterhouses. Because they have always been like that – even before the coronavirus pandemic.