JBS Dinmore has shut for two weeks from August 24 with workers stood down without pay.
JBS Dinmore has shut for two weeks from August 24 with workers stood down without pay.

Meatworkers left in dark with future of plant unclear

MEATWORKERS suffering through the latest chapter in a disrupted and difficult year feel they are being left in the dark by management with fears a two week shutdown could be extended.

The JBS Dinmore plant shut last week with about 1700 workers stood down with no pay.

They are expecting to head back to work next Monday.

Staff at the Ipswich site had seen their pay slashed by 40 per cent after working three-day weeks for the past couple of months.

They are set to work three-day weeks until the annual one-month shutdown at Christmas.

JBS Dinmore does not qualify for JobKeeper for its workers as revenue has only dropped 40 per cent and not the required 50 per cent.

The company, backed by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union Queensland branch and Blair MP Shayne Neumann, is urging Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to make an exemption so staff can access the scheme.

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Mr Neumann and Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace have both written to Mr Frydenberg about the issue.

“I’ve had no response, nearly two weeks later,” Mr Neumann said.

“The worry and the concern for meatworkers and their families is that this (closure) will continue.

“We’re hoping this doesn’t become a medium term closure or even a long term closure.

“The meatworkers and their families spend money in shops and retail outlets and that’s bad for our local economy.

JBS Australia chief Operating officer Anthony Pratt in a boning room at the company's meat processing plant in Dinmore. Picture: Attila Csaszar
JBS Australia chief Operating officer Anthony Pratt in a boning room at the company's meat processing plant in Dinmore. Picture: Attila Csaszar

“The treasurer could pick up his pen or get on the keyboard and change it but he’s refusing to do so.

“All the government seems to be offering is unemployment benefits, in other words JobSeeker.

“The people don’t want JobSeeker, they want to keep their jobs and they want JobKeeper.”

LNP Senator Paul Scarr told the QT last week Services Australia was working directly with JBS so workers were getting information on how to access support.

“For workers not entitled to JobSeeker or other income support directly from Government, there are other emergency services available,” he said.

One worker, who did not want to be named, said recent comments by JBS Australia chief operating officer Anthony Pratt in the media were concerning, especially as no concrete information has been given to staff about their futures.

Mr Pratt told The Australian that the closure of plants until JobKeeper ended was “starting to become a real possibility.”

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“He’s worrying a lot of people,” the worker said.

“It’s causing major confusion. They haven’t put out any public notices.

“He’s playing a game and we’re the ones paying the price.

“We’re not pawns on a chessboard. We’ve got families.

“I can’t see any of the administration taking a pay cut.”

The worker said colleagues were stressing heading into Christmas and many had used up leave to tide them over during down times.

Staff are employed as daily hire, which means they can be stood down at a day’s notice.

“We don’t have a lot of job security,” the worker said.
“We’re at the mercy of the company or the conditions.

“If morale wasn’t bad already, it’s pathetic now.”

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JBS says it cannot outbid competitors on already record-high cattle prices as some are using labour hire companies to staff abattoirs and access JobKeeper via a third party.

The Dinmore processing plant was suspended from shipping product to China in May.

In a statement, Mr Frydenberg said JobKeeper was supporting about 990,000 organisations and 3.5 million people across the country.

He did not respond to questions about JBS.

“The Morrison Government has provided an unprecedented level of economic support totalling $314 billion to keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs,” he said.

“As part of our support we have extended JobKeeper and made it easier for organisations to qualify from September 28 2020.

“The Morrison Government will continue to do what is necessary to cushion the blow and help Australians get to the other side of the crisis.”

JBS did not respond to request for comment.

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.



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