By 1889, the union known as the Butchers Union had established branches in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Our first-ever Federal Conference was held in 1890, where representatives from New South Wales, Broken Hill, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia would all attend.
The next decade saw great fluctuation in the Australian meat industry, with only the SA, WA and Victorian branches lasting through this difficult emergent period of constant industrial action, as employers fought back against the ‘threat’ of well-paid, organised workers.
Thirteen years later in 1903 the very first Federal Meat Industry Union was formed by the SA, WA and Victorian branches, receiving official recognition as a trade union in 1905 under the name ‘Australasian Federation Butchers Employees Union’ (AFBEU). The reformed Queensland, Tasmanian, and NSW branches would soon rejoin.
In 1912, the Federal Council determined that a name change was in order to better describe the union’s wider coverage. On October 5, 1912, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) was formally born.
Today, more than 100 years on, most know us simply as the Meat Workers Union.
Building regional communities
During the late 1880’s, the newly-formed Butchers Unions undertook a relentless campaign of organisation and campaigning to raise standards in this tough, exploitative industry. These newly organised sheds had great success, securing excellent conditions for the workers and excellent production levels for the bosses.
The AMIEU was so well organised that it actually provided skilled labour to the meat works, helping to coordinate the hiring, supply and management of workers at many sites across the country. Meat workers would sit on worker councils which influenced the direction of the plant and the decisions of the bosses.
All the workers at these union sheds would be covered by an AMIEU agreement back in those days, meat worker or not. Carpenters, tinsmiths, boilermakers, engine drivers and more found themselves protected by a strong union that shared power at the plant and stood alongside the bosses as equals.
AMIEU members gave generously to build their fledgling local communities — using union funds to build regional schools, hospitals and amenities desperately needed in remote country towns.
Your local branch
In the early 1900s, the NSW branch split into two separate divisions to better manage the needs of the fast-growing state and the many meat sheds now operating within it. The Newcastle & Northern NSW Branch of the AMIEU was formally recognised by the industrial registrar on 20 August 1919.
Our current office at 34 Union Street in Newcastle West was opened by long-serving secretary Albert Allsop on July 31, 1973 (pictured above).
Today, the Newcastle & Northern NSW branch services all meat works north of the Hawkesbury River on the Central Coast, all the way up to the Queensland border. Along with the NSW branch, we extend our coverage to cold storage and dairy workers.
The last century of operation has afforded us the opportunity to provide strong representation to these workers, and we will continue to do so into the future.