The CEO of the Australian Meat Industry Council has once again demonstrated how out of touch these wealthy industry lobby groups are from the real lives of every day Australians.
Speaking to Fairfax Media last week, AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson criticised a new Labor plan which would raise the wages of overseas workers, making it less appealing for companies to use them as disposable employees. Instead, Mr. Hutchinson suggested that the real issue was, once again, local Australians simply are either too drug-addicted or lazy to want to work in meat processing.
The big bosses of the red meat industry have been pushing this line for decades. Every time the question of local employment comes up, they always say the same thing: They would love to employ locals, but Australians are lazy, Australians are on drugs, and these business owners simply have no choice but to turn to overseas workers.
This is a lie. The truth of the matter is that big businesses could employ local workers any time they wanted to. Instead, they turn to overseas workers as a first choice, not as a last choice. They do this because overseas workers are cheaper, easier to control, and don’t know their workplace rights. This means higher profits for these multi-million-dollar meat processing operations.
Australians only need to look to places like Tamworth, where 14% of young people are unemployed – more than double the unemployment rate of other workers – yet big meat companies do nothing. One particularly bad offender is Thomas Foods, which maintains a local Tamworth workforce of 700 people, 90% of whom are overseas workers on temporary visas.
The AMIEU has been hearing that local Australians are “too lazy” or “on drugs” for many years. Yet every time we go to big regional meat processing hubs like Tamworth and actually speak to the locals on the streets, they tell us that they would love to work. Last year, we found more than 100 willing workers in just a few hours on the streets of Tamworth.
Scenarios like Tamworth are already playing out across Australia and will only grow if nothing is done to stop it.
We welcome this plan from Labor as a good first step to start turning around a very dangerous situation. Much more work needs to be done, and the AMIEU has provided Labor with detailed recommendations on what other measures are required to implement a genuine local labour market testing strategy which will put locals first.
“The actual meat workers of this country are sick and tired of hearing this fake sob story from the big meat business owners and their wealthy lobby groups,” said AMIEU Newcastle & Northern NSW Secretary Grant Courtney.
“Everyday Australians are struggling to pay their bills on low wages, terrified that they could lose their casual job with no warning, and wondering how they are supposed to provide for their kids. The last thing they want to hear is big business owners who are making money hand over fist complaining about how tough life is.”
“Big red meat companies are raking in millions of dollars a year in profits, paying minimal or even zero tax, while also doing everything they can to increase working hours and decrease wages. Why should anybody care what they have to say about this? It’s absolutely pathetic and nobody is buying it.”
AMIEU Newcastle & Northern NSW
PH: (02) 4929 5496