Biggest group of Pinoy workers employed at rural pork factory in Ireland

Vanda Marie Brady, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2019 05:27 PM

Foreign employers continue to hire Filipino workers because of their admirable work attitude despite being away from home.

Nineteen Filipinos who were recently hired as meat processing operatives at the abattoir and boning hall of McCarren Meats, the oldest traditional pig-slaughtering and bacon curing business in Ireland, will celebrate their first Christmas away from their loved ones.

Hailing from Manila, Batangas, Rizal, and Ilocos, the 19 Filipinos, who arrived in three batches in August 2019, make up the first and biggest group of Filipino meat factory workers to arrive in Ireland. Two of them are the first females from the Philippines who are manning the butchering line of the family-run pork factory in Co. Cavan which processes 7,000 pigs weekly.

Through the Irish Employment Permit Scheme, the 19 workers are among 1,050 others who were granted work permits for meat processing jobs in order to address immediate labor shortages in the Irish meat processing sector.

Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys allocated 250 work permits for meat processing operatives in a pilot scheme launched in May 2018, followed by an additional 500 in August 2018, and another 300 for meat deboners on July 2019.

McCarren Meats is a family-run business with over 150 years of history within the meat industry. While it maintains some aspects of the traditional-pig slaughtering, it is not lagging behind in the use of modern-day equipment and technology. It likewise ensures compliance with occupational safety and health standards and animal welfare requirements.

At a Cavan Filipino Workers Forum held at Cavan Crystal Hotel on October 19, human resources manager Claire Smith thanked Shercock-based Filipina Cristina Martin and her family for coming to the factory in September 2018 and opening their eyes and hearts to the possibility of giving Filipino workers an opportunity to come and work with McCarren Meats.

“The Filipino work ethic is one to be admired. They have all moved halfway around the world leaving family and friends behind, but they still come to into work everyday with a smile on their face. They are courteous, and they have the hunger to make a new life for themselves in Ireland,” said Smith.
Martin has brought Filipino factory workers to Ireland since the 1990s. When she learned from her local butcher that McCarren Meats was looking for meat processors who can slaughter and trim pigs, she contacted her Filipino brother-in-law Joey in Shercock. Joey’s brother and brother-in-law ran Kaloocan Slaughterhouse and Training Center in Manila, which is accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the Philippines.

Cristina, Joey and wife Val processed the initial work permit requirements. Nearly a year after, and passing through the recruitment and deployment process in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the 19 workers landed safe and sound in Cavan and are now enjoying the benefits of working at McCarren’s.

The workers, who range from 24-48 years old and are mostly married with children, look forward to bringing their families over to Ireland to join them after one year when they become entitled to apply for family reunification.

Cousins Vicky De Castro and Marc Cinco are from Batangas and have worked in various jobs in Taiwan, Palau, Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi in between them. Vicky, who rented out her school supplies business, is married to a seafarer and has a 15-year old girl, and 13-year old twin girls. Marc has a sari-sari store that his wife is looking after and has daughters aged 5 and 9.

Like any job, it was difficult for Vicky and Marc to adjust to a new workplace in a new country while being away from their families. Four months on, they are now in better spirits and are thankful for McCarren Meats for being a good employer, for welcoming and treating them very well, and for helping them settle in Ireland by providing them with one-month free accommodation, a cash voucher, a phone sim card, and securing their Garda National Immigration Bureau card.

Asked at the recent McCarren Meats Christmas party for their advice for future meat factory workers, they said: “Do not expect a bed of roses when you work overseas. It is not easy. Always do your best, have faith, and work hard.”