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Oxfam shames US poultry processing industry

14 May 2016

A recent report published by Oxfam should be uncomfortable reading for anyone involved in the food production industry today. 

The ‘No relief’ document, which is based on the results of research conducted by Oxfam and partner organisations between 2013 and 2016, highlights the reasons that it is campaigning for improved conditions for US workers in the poultry processing industry.

The report found that, while the poultry industry is enjoying record profits, life inside the processing plant remains grim and dangerous for workers, who earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice within their workplaces.

No toilet breaks
Routinely, poultry workers say, they are denied breaks to use the bathroom. Supervisors mock their needs and ignore their requests for toilet breaks, threatening punishment or firing. Many workers struggle to cope with this denial of a basic human need. They urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security.

The report says that supervisors are denying requests for toilet breaks because they are under pressure to maintain the speed of the processing line, and to keep up production.

According to Oxfam these problems are being faced by workers across the industry, but the four largest poultry companies –Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms – together employ over 100,000 poultry processing workers and control almost 60% of the market. Oxfam has called for these companies to implement changes that will improve conditions for poultry workers across the country, including granting adequate bathroom breaks.

Download a copy of the original report which includes responses from the companies named in the report.

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