AMIEU Gathering Evidence On Breaches Of Visa Worker Agreements

The Meat Workers Union is alarmed by recent events unfolding across the meat processing sector in Australia. Time and again we are seeing highly-skilled Australian workers pushed aside in favour of exploitable visa workers shipped in from overseas – lining the pockets of the big processors with more money while hurting the lives and families of working Australians.

With no support from government to tackle the issue, the AMIEU is now preparing a comprehensive investigation and action plan to confront employers directly about their abuse of visa worker agreements.

The Meat Industry Labour Agreement issued by the Department of Immigration outlines clearly the conditions under which meat processing companies can use overseas workers – and all of these conditions are consistently being ignored.

An overseas worker may only be used in situations where:

  • Australian workers are only being supplemented, not replaced
  • Employment and training opportunities for Australian workers are not being undermined
  • Australian workers are expected to eventually replace the overseas worker once the pressing immediate need has passed

The very clear direction of the Agreement is that Australian skilled workers are to be given preference at all stages – something we are seeing more and more companies conveniently “forgetting” when it comes to deciding who gets to keep their hours.

The meat processing industry in Australia is in the middle of a crisis, with cattle shortages hitting everybody hard and live exporters undercutting local processors by sending cattle offshore to make a quick buck.

Many processors are using this crisis as an excuse to cut costs even further by giving work to exploitable overseas workers who they can threaten with being deported, if they question their rights. It’s unacceptable, and direct action needs to be taken.

The AMIEU works tirelessly to help overseas workers as well as locals – we’ve helped hundreds of overseas meat workers recover hundreds of thousands in unpaid wages, as well as getting them moved onto proper agreements that don’t brutally exploit them. We support all meat workers in Australia, no matter where they come from or how long they’re staying.

But when companies are only using overseas workers so that they can save money – so that they can exploit foreigners who can’t speak up and defend themselves, while Australian workers are laid off – that is not acceptable.

Stay tuned for more updates in our campaign to take employers to task.