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Two decades of bad press and constant debate about the wages and working conditions of workers in German abattoirs and in the German meat processing industry will not come to an end until the German Bundestag passes legislation that clearly and unambiguously defines the framework for the industry. This is the opinion of Danish Crown, the fourth largest player in slaughtering and meat processing in Germany. 

– We are in a situation where German consumers have lost confidence in our industry. We need to rectify this. Ideally, the industry itself should have taken the necessary steps years ago, but we missed the chance. I therefore hope the German government will swiftly pass legislation that once and for all makes a clean break with the system that has given our industry a terribly bad image, says Preben Sunke, Group COO of Danish Crown.

Danish Crown pursues a CSR strategy in which one of the headlines is “Good jobs for everyone”. More specifically, this means that all employees should be treated with respect, have decent working conditions and, not least, have an opportunity to develop both personally and professionally.

To this end, it was decided in early 2019 to launch a pilot project in Danish Crown’s abattoir in Essen (Oldenburg) with the objective of reducing the number of workers employed through labour sub-contractors from 75% of the 1,500 employees to a maximum of 25% by the end of 2020.

The current situation is that half of the employees at the abattoir in Essen are now in the employ of Danish Crown, and the plan for reaching 75% during the autumn was in place already at the beginning of the year.

– We take our corporate social responsibility seriously and Danish Crown will therefore secure decent working conditions for all employees in Germany before 2021. As a responsible company, we can no longer cite the lack of German and European political involvement as a reason to not secure decent working conditions. Therefore, we are prepared to take the lead, says Preben Sunke.

Leading players in the meat industry have announced that they are prepared on a voluntary basis to in-source all the employees who are currently employed by subcontractors. Danish Crown is also prepared to stop using labour sub-contractors by the end of 2020, but Preben Sunke believes that it will take more to secure a sustainable solution.

– The problem with voluntary agreements and declarations of intent is that they are not legally binding or subject to government control. Therefore, I fear that our industry will soon be of track again if the area is not regulated by law. Also, I would encourage all German politicians to create a flexible system, allowing the procurement of additional labour during peak periods. This is possible in Denmark thanks to the Danish flexicurity model, and I hope the German politicians will be inspired by it as the combination of a social safety net, a flexible labour market and an active labour market policy is very effective and beneficial to all parties, says Preben Sunke.

Danish Crown today has about 3,500 employees at eight production sites in Germany, i.e. three abattoirs, three processing plants and two cutting plants.