Thomas Foods Chooses More Visa Workers Over Training Local Kids

Thomas Foods is secretly planning to move more than a hundred 457 visa workers into its Tamworth operation, desperate to do whatever it takes to avoid employing New England locals.

Tamworth is already at breaking point, suffering under record youth unemployment levels that are double the national average.

Now Thomas Foods wants to put the nail in the coffin of local employment, by adding more than a hundred 457 visa workers to a factory whose workforce is already 85% backpacker and student visa holders.

This is absolutely unacceptable and the AMIEU condemns this move.

Thomas Foods has a moral duty to support the development of local Australian jobs that support and grow the local community. Instead, Thomas Foods relies on the bonded modern slavery of 457 visa workers, and an endless stream of exploitable backpacker workers.

Right now, the AMIEU is preparing a case for a massive underpayment worth tens of thousands of dollars against Ananda, one of the many labour hire agencies that Thomas Foods uses to keep its Tamworth factory stocked with backpackers.

We have grave concerns for the safety of our members who have come forward to the AMIEU to provide this evidence. Their precarious employment as casual labour hire workers who speak only a little English means that Thomas Foods labour hire agent Ananda can hire and fire them at will – and the company has demonstrated its willingness to do so in the past.

We have already advised Thomas Foods of the extensive nature of these underpayments and warned, not for the first time, of the systematic failure of its labour hire agents to pay correct rates. Thomas Foods is standing behind Ananda’s underpayments and claims everything is above board, but our testimony from these exploited workers shows differently.

Thomas Foods has already made it very clear what they think about local Australian workers – they’re lazy. Chief operating officer David McKay told The Weekly Times Now in 2015 that Australians “lack the work ethic” to be employed at his company.

The visa workers that Thomas Foods is attempting to bring into Tamworth will need to be relocated from South Australia. This will be a massive and costly operation – but Thomas Foods will happily spend that money as long as it keeps locals out of a job.

There is no shortage of skilled, ready-to-work meat workers in Australia. There is no need to be bringing in more visa workers at a time when Tamworth is reeling under record youth unemployment.

And yet, Thomas Foods had no hesitation in writing to the Australian Government in February and begging for permission to bring more than a hundred 457 workers into Tamworth.

They asked the AMIEU to support the move – and offered to “encourage” local jobs in the region by putting up a billboard advertising careers at Thomas Foods.

“The AMIEU can not, and will not, agree to something which puts locals out of work, especially when Tamworth is already at breaking point,” said AMIEU Newcastle & Northern NSW Secretary Grant Courtney.

“Thomas Foods idea of supporting local employment is to put up a billboard in the middle of Tamworth. It’s not good enough and frankly it’s pathetic.”

“Thomas Foods likes to promote itself as an Australian family owned employer. If that’s true, then we are calling on the Thomas Foods family to do the right thing by other Australian families and offer jobs to locals who need them.”

“New England needs help, not an employer who wants to make things worse in the name of profits. “

More information:

Grant Courtney
AMIEU Newcastle & Northern NSW
PH: (02) 4929 5496