Poverty action campaigners are stepping up their fight against plans to raise the production line speed in US poultry plants.
At present, the line speed in poultry is set at 140 birds per minute but the poultry industry has asked the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set up a system that would allow poultry plants to remove any line speed limits.
Oxfam, which 2 years ago, launched its ‘Lives on the Line’ report on the plight of the US poultry workforce, said the current speed was already too fast.
In a blog released this week, Oxfam America said the current rate was so fast that poultry workers are injured at almost twice the rate of workers in private industry.
“These workers face over 7 times the national average of occupational illnesses, such as repetitive motion injuries.
“It’s hard to see how anything good can come from waiving the limit and allowing faster speeds. It poses risks to consumers, animals and workers.”
Oxfam joined a coalition of groups for a meeting with USDA last week to raise a range of concerns. The Coalition included representatives from 13 non-profit organisations and unions.
Deborah Berkowitz, senior fellow on worker safety and health with the National Employment Law a Project, said there were no grounds for USDA to legally grant the industry’s petition.
“There is already a high rate of injuries at the current speed, there is understaffing and workers experience problems with getting time to see the nurse when they are injured.”
Hunter Ogletree, spokesman for the Western North Carolina Workers’ Centre, added: “Poultry workers come to us every day expressing their dismay that the plants and supervisors put all their priority on keeping up production and have no regard for what that means for workers or consumers.”