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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case DE-2021-1/865 – measures in Germany

Stricter regulations for the meat industry

Schärfere Auflagen für die Fleischindustrie

Country Germany , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 01 January 2021
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Occupational health and safety
Author Birgit Kraemer (Hans Boeckler Foundation) and Eurofound
Case created 21 May 2020 (updated 22 July 2021)

Background information

The German meat processing industry used to employ posted workers and workers from temporary work agencies; working conditions and conditions of their accomodation have been in controversial debate for years. Government aimed to solve the problem by settling agreements with the industry guaranteeing ethical conduct and better working conditions. But the pandemic revealed shortcomings in occupational health and safety, infection prevention and health protection standards, and the resulting high number of infections, led to new regulations on labour inspection in general and on the conditions in the meat industry in particular. New regulations came into force 1 January 2021. The competent authorities shall enforce them vigorously.

Content of measure

New regulation for the meat industry are (Labour inspection regulation act):

  • Customs and occupational safety authorities as well as district regulatory authorities and health offices are to take additional steps to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety, infection prevention and health protection standards;
  • As of 1 January 2021 butchering and processing of meat will no longer be subcontracted; as of 1 April 2021 also the contracting of temporary agency workers is prohibited. Slaughtering and shall be conducted by regular staff. Artisanal businesses with less than 50 employees are exempted from this regulation;
  • For a period of three years, agreed collective agreements may provide for the option to circumvent the above mentioned regulation and to under certain conditions permit temporary agency work albeit under strong restrictions and control measures.
  • The Workplace Regulation (Arbeitsstättenverordnung) will define the quality standards for workers collective accommodations on and outside of the employers' premises.
  • Meat companies with the exception of artisanal companies have to track the beginning and the end of the daily working time of their employees. The level of fines imposed for contravention of the Working Time Act is to be doubled to €30,000.

Use of measure

No information available yet.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Workers in non-standard forms of employment
Posted workers
Sector specific set of companies
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Company / Companies
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Sectoral or branch level

Involvement

Previous government measures aimed at regulating the working conditions of posted and foreign temporary agency workers based on voluntary agreements with the employer organisation failed (Bosch, Hüttenhoff, Weinkopf 2020). This legislation was pushed for by the sectoral trade union NGG and by Faire Mobiliät, the DGB-based network of support for cross-border and posted workers. Neither one of the social partners was directly involved in the legislation.

Views and reactions

On the side of trade unions, the measures were welcomed. The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and Nahrung-Genuss-Gaststätten (NGG), a trade union in the food industry, welcomed the regulations as a basis to put an end to organising the entire production process through chains of subcontractors.

On the side of employer organisations, the measures were criticised. The Central Association of the German Poultry Industry described the decision 'wrong and disproportionate' and as a risk to keeping factories open and preserving jobs.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      C - Manufacturing C10 Manufacture of food products
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Food processing, wood working, garment and other craft and related trades workers

Sources

  • 20 May 2020: Federal government: Stricter regulations for the meat industry (Bundesregierung: Schärfere Auflagen für die Fleischindustrie (www.bundesregierung.de)
  • 21 May 2020: DGB welcomes ban on work contracts in the meat industry (DGB begrüßt Verbot von Werkverträgen in der Fleischindustrie) (www.deutschlandfunk.de)
  • 01 July 2020: Bosch,G./Hüttenhoff, F./Weinkopf, C. (2020): Corona-Hotspot Fleischindustrie: Das Scheitern der Selbstverpflichtung (duepublico2.uni-due.de)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Stricter regulations for the meat industry, case DE-2021-1/865 (measures in Germany), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.