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US sanitation company accused of employing children to clean slaughterhouses – National | Globalnews.ca

United States Ministry of Labour investigating a leading sanitation company over allegations that it employed dozens of children working night shifts in cleaning crews at slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants across the country, the agency said.

Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. (PSSI), a national company that serves more than 700 food processing facilities, is accused of using child labor perform its contracts in at least three factories Nebraska and Minnesota, revealed the preliminary investigation of the Ministry of Labor. The agency says the company employed at least 31 children between the ages of 13 and 17.

According to court documents filed Nov. 9, several children who worked for PSSI, including a 13-year-old, suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries while working in dangerous cemeteries cleaning high-powered equipment.

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PSSI denies the allegations. In A declarationthe company said it had “an absolute company-wide ban on employing anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of this policy – ​​period.”

“PSSI has state-of-the-art, best-in-class procedures for confirming the identity of its employees, including mandatory use of the government’s E-verify system for new hires, as well as extensive training, document verification, biometrics and multiple layers of audits,” the statement added. “While rogue individuals could of course seek to engage in fraud or identity theft, we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies. and we will vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations.”

The Department of Labor seeks a temporary restraining order and nationwide injunction against PSSI while it continues its investigation into what it called “oppressive child labor violations” under the Labor Standards Act fair. Initial agency evidence formal complaint indicates more children may be employed under similar conditions at 400 other locations across the United States

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In its official complaint, the Department of Labor alleged that PSSI had children working night shifts, sometimes six to seven days a week, to clean equipment such as bone saws and meat slicers on the slaughterhouse floors. slaughterhouses.

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One child, who attends a local college, was accused of falling asleep in class and another told investigators he had recently dropped out of secondary school because he was “working and tired”.

PSSI employee who appears to be a miner working in the “ground beef room” of a meatpacking plant in Nebraska.

US Department of Labor

The department also alleges that PSSI interfered with its investigation by deleting and altering employee records and intimidating its underage workers to prevent them from cooperating with investigators.

The investigation into PSSI began when the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division received a report from law enforcement that the company might employ children. The agency then conducted interviews with dozens of alleged underage workers, all of whom spoke Spanish as their first language, and found that many of them were students.

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“Federal laws were established decades ago to prevent employers from profiting by putting children at risk,” said Department of Labor Administrator Michael Lazzeri. “Taking advantage of children, exposing them to workplace hazards – and interfering with a federal investigation – demonstrates Packers Sanitation Services Inc.’s blatant disregard for the law and for the welfare of young workers.”

The federal court in Nebraska decided to partially grant the request of the Ministry of Labor in a filing Thursday. PSSI is required to “immediately cease and desist from employing oppressive child labor” and to comply with the investigation of its practices.

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A hearing has been set for November 23 to discuss whether this order will be extended, modified or dissolved.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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