At the beginning of June 2020, one in six Vion workers in Boxtel tested positively for COVID-19. On June 15, a new test showed that one in three employees was infected - this was only revealed four days later in a press release from Vion.
To the surprise of local residents and local politicians, the slaughterhouse in Boxtel always remained open. This while other slaughterhouses, such as Van Rooi in Helmond, with a similar infection rate, and also Vion's slaughterhouse in Groenlo, were temporarily closed.
According to the Veiligheidsregio Brabant Noord (a regional authority), the outbreak wasn't too serious, and most employees with corona were no longer contagious. On June 22, the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) openly distanced itself from the conclusions of the Veiligheidsregio - something that rarely happens - but withdrew it later.
On the 1st of July, the Boxtel municipality council was informed by the Veiligheidsregio. Mayor Wobine Buijs from Oss, deputy chairman of the Veiligheidsregio, together with the Publich Health Service - GGD -, stated that there were no indications of a major risk of infection. She also said that "good agreements" were made with Vion.
Now it appears from internal reports, which Omroep Brabant published the 11th of September, that the GGD and the Veiligheidsregio knew in June that most of the employees who tested positive did have symptoms. The documents also show that Vion did not keep the agreements. This information was kept from residents of Boxtel.
Vion itself came up with a theory about the role of ventilation in the spread of the virus and was allowed to investigate this, while RIVM to this day has no scientific evidence for the link between ventilation and the spread of the virus.
Veterinarians from the Netherlands food and consumer product safety authority (NVWA) warned on July 5th that COVID measures cannot be properly followed in slaughterhouses, and that the NVWA neglected their warnings. Research by various journalists, and also Shut Down VION! itself, shows that migrant workers live too close together and that working conditions make it almost impossible to keep the distance.
Nevertheless, the GGD maintains that no additional inspections are required at Vion: Vion's own measures are sufficient; preventive testing and more random checks are not necessary.
At the beginning of September, the Dutch employees were ordered to work outside the slaughterhouse on the site, and only the migrant workers were allowed to enter, because Vion cannot comply with the corona measures and the company is afraid that Dutch employees will talk about this. This has been told to us by employees.
Shut Down VION! finds all this very curious. There are strict measures for the entire country, but large companies are allowed to set their own rules. A company like Vion is taken for granted over and over again, even when it turns out they cannot be trusted, and is not taken accountable. All this at the expense of public health and the well-being of the workers.
Selection of articles on the Dutch version of this blog.