Employees of slaughterhouse Van Rooi: we had to work while infected with coronabirus
Employees of slaughterhouse Van Rooi Meat from Helmond tell the NOS that they have been working with coronavirus complaints for the past two months. They dare not report that they have symptoms or are ill, for fear of losing their jobs.
A number of employees state that they have been instructed to lie. They say that a corporation executive instructed them to if asked if they are sick to tick “no” on health statements, which must be completed daily. Some of them voluntarily filled in the health declaration, for fear that they would never return to work if they had complaints.
In the findings of the NOS, the GGD and the Safety Region see reason to immediately announce new measures to the company. This weekend, Van Rooi Meat was informed by letter that unannounced inspections of the health statements will take place.
Director Marc van Rooi denies to the NOS that the staff have been instructed to lie. “To my knowledge, this has not happened. And if we hear about it, we will take measures. We have only one interest and that is to keep the factory corona-free.”
Van Rooi Meat is the second-largest slaughterhouse in the Netherlands. It employs 1700 people, the company has a turnover of 650 million euros and made a profit of 35 million euros last year.
At the end of May, the company had to close for two weeks when a large part of the staff was infected with the coronavirus. This was revealed by two samples of the GGD, in which employees were tested.
According to the whistleblowers, the corporation manipulated the first of those two samples. Migrant workers in shared housing were not allowed to work for the company on that day. This was done so that employees who live together did not all have to be quarantined in case of a positive result.
According to an employee, the sample was preceded by an internal survey, so that the company already knew who they should add shouldn’t call.
The GGD says in a response to the NOS that the company was caught at the time. “The sample turned out to be unrepresentative and that bothered us,” says Ellis Jeurissen, director of GGD Brabant-Zuidoost. “But we called the company to account and then carried out a second sample.”
In June, the company was allowed to open again in phases. One of the measures was that all employees have to fill in a health declaration every morning at the gate. If you say you have complaints, you have to go home. Employees want to prevent this for fear of their jobs. “If I had said the truth, I probably wouldn’t be able to return,” said one of them. …
Also, other measures within the slaughterhouse, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meters and putting on mouth masks, only take place just before an inspection, according to employees. The GGD announced those checks in advance. According to Jeurissen of the GGD, this happened “on the basis of trust”. …
The GGD acknowledges that the statements of employees show that little is actually known about the health situation at the company. According to a spokesperson, since no one has been tested positive since 15 June who claims to work at Van Rooi Meat, the GGD is not sure whether employees of the company are being tested at all.
It is also not known to the GGD how many employees on health statements say they have complaints. That information is not shared by Van Rooi Meat for privacy reasons.
In recent weeks, the NOS spoke several times by telephone and in person with a total of eight employees of Van Rooi Meat from Helmond. In all cases it concerns labor migrants from several European countries. Their names are known to the NOS.
The employees who have spoken for this article have been promised anonymity because they are at high risk of being fired if it is known that they have spoken to journalists.