Experiences of a 'white hat' at Vion

The following story was told to us by Willem (32 years old). Willem worked at Vion in Groenlo 12 years ago, for a total of one and a half years in different periods and in different positions in the processing department. He wants to share his story because, in his words, "it's a structurally mess" at Vion. The work had a lot of impact on him.

"In my opinion, nothing has changed since that time. The machines didn't change and the pigs still scream. The work on the belt was hectic, if you were a minute late it was already bad luck. They also tease you. They would slow down the belt and then suddenly go very fast so that everything falls off. If you said anything you were fired.

The production workers are the "white hats". The yellow hats go over the white hats. Then you have the green hats, the managers. The red hats are the first aiders and the blue hats are the mechanics and technicians. Everything is organized by the color of the hats and the white hats are at the bottom of the ladder. Then you are used like a robot.

I've always worked as a "white hat" there, I've been an apprentice butcher, worked in retail on the shoarma line, in packing and on the washing line. I went through everything you could do as a 'white hat'. For me the minced meat department was okay, there you worked from six in the morning until 12. The annoying thing was that the manager often went home at 12 and I had to continue working on the assembly line and I didn't like it. Only because I was a 'white hat' I was not allowed to go home, but had to stand elsewhere on the conveyor belt until 5 pm, and sometimes until 6 pm. I did say something about it, but you have to work and work and work. It's all about money there, not about the people. The managers are unfriendly and Vion is unfriendly to animals.

As a 'white hat' you are at the bottom, you are a kind of machine. In fact, it's just slave labor. You have nothing to say, you have to participate in their horrible form of entertainment. If you don't, you can leave.

It's a closed community there, I'm not sure if anyone else would or could give such a testimony. I am also doing this anonymously. Many migrants from Eastern Europe work as white hats. So there is also little communication because they don't speak English.

After I left Vion I did work at a few companies. After that I got stuck and then ended up on welfare. I remained stuck in this misery for a bit. Now I have no money and am homeless."

This is part 1 of Willem's story. Soon we will publish part 2.