Local workers' needs - not Primo GREED

18 December 2013

UNIONISED meatworkers at a Scone abattoir are taking industrial action today after seven months of negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union Newcastle Branch Secretary Grant Courtney said about 150 union members would take part in the action.

He said the Scone abattoir supplied meat to Coles outlets across NSW, and said shortages were possible if the dispute was not resolved.

He said day shift and afternoon shift would each strike for two hours, with an indefinite overtime ban to follow.

He said members had Fair Work Commission approval for further industrial action during December and he could not rule out another strike.

In a recent article, operator Primo Smallgoods’s managing director Paul Lederer spoke of taking Primo from a small company employing 38 people in 1985 to one of Australia’s biggest food companies today, employing 4000 people and turning over $1.3billion a year.

Mr Courtney said it was obvious that Primo was a very profitable company.

‘‘Our members are being denied a reasonable wage increase after providing serious increases in productivity,’’ Mr Courtney said.

He said changed conditions at the abattoir meant Primo expected meatworkers to process 20% more animal carcasses a day.

He said the workforce wanted productivity payments to recognise the extra work but the company was refusing to consider them.

Mr Courtney said Primo employed another 300 or so people through labour hire firms.

Most were backpackers or foreign nationals on a working visa, at a time when local people were being ‘‘knocked back’’ when applying for work.

He said the meat industry was increasingly reliant on such labour.