Meat workers union puts NSW Labor on notice over lack of action on workers rights

The Newcastle and Northern NSW branch of the AMIEU is calling on NSW Labor to put workers first at their upcoming state conference this weekend.

Thousands of Australian jobs will be lost over the next five years unless urgent changes are made. The AMIEU will be throwing its support behind progressive, forward-thinking candidates willing to address the serious issues facing meat workers and their families.

3000 jobs on the chopping block under the China Free Trade Agreement

Labor has a unique chance to save 3000 Australian meat processing jobs by putting an end to this agreement.

Under the proposed terms of this agreement, an additional 1 million live cattle can be taken from Australia’s increasingly thin herd and shipped overseas for foreign workers to process. At the most conservative estimate, that’s 3,000 Australian meat workers out of a job – and that’s not even taking into account the knock-on industries that work in and around meat processing.

Australia’s cattle herd is currently at its lowest level in 15 years and will not be able to withstand this loss. The time for action is now. NSW Labor must formally stand up and oppose the China Free Trade Agreement and act to save these workers.

Flip-flopping on live animal exports

The AMIEU has been working with animal welfare groups since 2007 on a plan to put a stop to live animal exports. If we want to save Australian jobs and improve animal health and welfare, we have to face the hard truth that the practice of live animal exports must end.

In 2009, we put a plan to a coalition of meat processing companies and their union to call for a slow, sustainable phasing out of live animal exports. Despite enjoying widespread public support, this plan has yet to receive the backing or even attention of the Labor party.

The reality is clear: the longer live animal exports continue, the more Australian jobs are at risk. There is no avoiding this fact.

Protect wages and conditions by introducing joint employment laws

The meat working industry, like many industries in Australia, is struggling under an influx of contract labour. Employers take advantage of lazy loopholes to hire (and then brutally exploit) cheap overseas labour, or fire their existing staff before re-hiring them as contractors through hiring agencies.

A simple way to fix this would be to commit to implementing joint employment legislation. This model has been successfully used overseas and it makes employers legally liable for workers that they hire through contract agencies as if they were the employer themselves. This removes the incentive for employers to exploit overseas workers or to replace their full-time staff with contractors.

NSW Labor must commit to guaranteeing the same rights and benefits for all workers by introducing joint employment legislation, not increasing fines for labour agents found guilty of corruption or sham contracting. This band-aid approach targets the symptom, not the cause. Joint employment laws will fix the problem at the source and secure jobs for Australian workers.

Hundreds of thousands of Australian workers across all industries have lost their stability and had their wages slashed as a result of profit-driven employers moving towards an indirect workforce. This must end.

The AMIEU’s Newcastle and Northern NSW branch will be watching NSW Labor very closely this weekend to see if they have the courage to stand up for the rights of workers and against profit-driven corporations.

For more information, contact:

Grant Courtney
AMIEU Newcastle & Northern Branch
PH: 02 4929 5496 or 0417 118 945