Workers for some of the largest poultry producers in the US are resorting to wearing nappies while on the processing line because they are being denied bathroom breaks, an Oxfam America report has revealed.
The report, which involved interviews with employees at Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms, revealed workers were subjected to ridicule or punishment if they requested toilet breaks while working on the line.
It claims some employees were forced to urinate and defecate where they stood, or restrict how much they ate and drank to dangerous levels for fear of losing their jobs.
The report, titled No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry, calls on poultry companies to change their practices.
It states: “Supervisors mock their needs and ignore their requests; they threaten punishment or firing. Workers wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (eg ten minutes) or risk discipline.
“Workers struggled to cope with this denial of a basic human need. They urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security.
“Supervisors deny requests to use the bathroom because they are under pressure to maintain the speed of the processing line, and to keep up production.”
Oxfam America claims the estimated 250,000 poultry workers in the US are subjected to poor compensation, high rates of injury and illness and a climate of fear.
The report also states that women are harder hit by the lack of toilet breaks and are at an increased vulnerability to infections as a result.
It adds: “Denial of regular access to the bathroom is a clear violation of US workplace safety law, and may also violate US anti-discrimination laws.”
As part of the campaign it launched in October last year to improve conditions for US poultry workers, Oxfam America calls on major poultry producers to implement changes to working conditions.
Two of the four producers – which account for around 60% of the poultry market – responded in the report.
In a statement, Tyson Foods said: “We care about our team members, so we find these claims troubling.
“We can tell you we’re committed to treating each other with respect and this includes giving workers time off the production line when they need it. Restroom breaks are not restricted to scheduled work breaks and can be taken at any time.”
Perdue Farms said: “The health and welfare of our associates is paramount and we take these types of allegations very seriously.
“The anecdotes reported are not consistent with Perdue’s policies and practices.”