Slaughterhouse closures

29 January 2014        


Christel Schaldemose (S&D)

Recently, yet another Danish slaughterhouse had to close down, with close to 500 workers being dismissed. The reason given by the firm was that German slaughterhouses were cheaper than Danish slaughterhouses. Accordingly, many Danish farmers send their piglets for slaughter in Germany. In an internal market, there is of course competition as regards pay and other conditions, but it is extremely worrying that animals are sent to slaughterhouses in Germany from Denmark and France, among other countries, on a large scale.

In addition, according to assessments by trade unions, close to three in four slaughterhouse workers in Germany are gang workers brought in from other countries, for short periods, who live in wretched conditions and work for unreasonably low wages.

Can the Commission give an assurance that German slaughterhouses are operating entirely by the book? Can it give an assurance that all industrial health and safety rules are being complied with, that no unlawful state aid is going to slaughterhouses, and that gang workers are in compliance with all rules on migrant workers? When did the Commission last ask Germany to give an account of conditions in the slaughterhouse industry?

28 February 2014


Answer given by Mr Andor on behalf of the Commission

The Commission is currently investigating allegations of ‘social dumping’ in the German meat-processing industry and cannot therefore comment at this stage on issues covered by the inquiry. It has requested and received information from the German authorities, which is currently being examined.

The Commission has also taken note of the fact that the social partners in the meat-processing industry in Germany have reached agreement, which is intended to enter into effect on 1 July 2014, on an overall minimum wage for the sector of EUR 7.75, to increase gradually to EUR 8.75 by 1 December 2016. The agreement would secure a minimum wage for all workers in the sector, including those employed by subcontractors.

As regards worker health and safety, German slaughterhouses are subject to Framework Directive 89/391/EEC(1) and related Directives(2). Under the framework Directive, it is the responsibility of the national authorities to enforce the national transposing provisions and to investigate specific cases. The Commission is not aware of any special problems relating to worker health and safety in German slaughterhouses, nor is it aware of unlawful state aid granted by Germany to slaughterhouses.

(1) Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, OJ L 183, 29.6.1989, p. 1.
(2) In particular, the Workplaces Directive (Council Directive 89/654/EEC of 30 November 1989 concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace, OJ L 393, 30.12.1989, p. 1) and the Biological Agents Directive (Directive 2000/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 September 2000 on the protection of workers from risks related to exposure to biological agents at work, OJ L 262, 17.10.2000).