Workers for some of the largest poultry producers in the US are forced to wear nappies to defecate and urinate where they stand or risk losing their jobs, an Oxfam America report has claimed. The new report says that workers are being refused toilet breaks, so must restrict the amount they eat and drink to dangerously low levels.
The report is entitled "No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry" and pleads with leading poultry companies to change their practices. Oxfam, who fight to end poverty across the globe, interviewed employees working at Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms.
And their investigation in the world's largest economy revealed workers were subjected to humiliating ridicule and punishment if they asked to use the toilet while working on a production line.
The report says: "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."
The organisation says that an estimated 250,000 poultry workers in the country are subjected to poor pay, high rates of injury and illness whilst at work and are subjected to a climate of fear in the workplace. The report goes further, saying that women are harder by the severe lack of toilet breaks as they suffer with an increased susceptibility to infections.
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."
Arkansas-based Tyson Foods was one of the companies named in the report, they said in a statement: "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."
And 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."