COVID-19 Cedar Meats

The AMIEU has been keeping a close watch on the pandemic coronavirus, COVID-19, all around the world. As food production is an essential service we have been extremely concerned to see the meat industry hot spots in the USA and Canada and the deaths of meat workers.

There are, however, significant differences between the processes in the USA and many workplaces in Australia. One major difference is that the AMIEU has fought for many years for physical distancing between workers. This not only necessary for infection control, but also reduces the risk of lacerations. The AMIEU also fought for workers' health and safety representatives who have rights and powers to make employers meet their obligations to provide work that is safe and without risk to the health of workers.

Unfortunately, there has been COVID-19 outbreak at Cedar Meats in Brooklyn. Only a small number of those who were working there at the time of the outbreak are members of the union. However, we have sought information from all of the companies about pay and protection of the all of the workers, both those affected by COVID-19 and those stood down.
Information provided by Cedar Meats would seem to indicate that the companies have applied for Jobkeeper and that the employment mix is one of permanent employees employed by Cedar Meats or Sprinter Foods and labour hire workers employed by Labour Solutions. The bulk of the casual workforce have been employed longer than 12 months and should be eligible for Jobkeeper payments. The company had, at the time of the outbreak few, if any, visa workers on-site.

We have also been informed that the company had in place employee temperature devices, hand sanitation and other preventative measures. The outbreak shows that this is not sufficient. The AMIEU is willing to meet with Cedar Meats to work with Cedar Meats to reach agreement on the necessary controls including physical distancing, appropriate barriers where practicable, work processes, personal protective equipment and vaccinations if and when they become available.

The AMIEU also calls on the Federal government to provide paid pandemic leave for all workers who reasonably believe they have contracted COVID-19. This should ensure that workers who are unwell, or have reason to believe they are infected with COVID-19, to isolate, obtain a test to confirm infection, and take the necessary leave to rehabilitate before returning to work. This must include casuals and those in other forms of vulnerable workers for companies.