600 JOBS CUT: Meatworks sheds third of workforce
ABOUT 600 full time jobs have been cut at Australia’s largest meat processing facility.
JBS Dinmore has scaled back its operations with the company blaming a range of issues impacting livestock supply and market conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meatworks, which is one of Ipswich’s largest employers, was closed for two weeks and workers’ shifts were cut by 40 per cent over the past couple of months.
Staff were stood down without pay for a fortnight from August 24 with the plant reopening on Monday.
JBS failed to convince Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to make an exemption to the JobKeeper scheme so workers could be supported.
JBS Dinmore does not qualify as revenue has only dropped 40 per cent this year and not the required 50 per cent.
Now the company has made the difficult call to shed a third of its workforce at the Ipswich site.
Workers have lost more than 70 shifts this year and are classed as daily hire, which means the minimum period of notice for termination is one day.
JBS, with the backing of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union and Blair MP Shayne Neumann, argued competitors are working the system by using labour hire companies to staff abattoirs and access JobKeeper via a third party.
“This is not a decision we have arrived at lightly,” JBS Australia chief executive officer Brent Eastwood said.
“Already facing a severe livestock supply shortage following an extended period of drought, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly impacted the Dinmore business.
“The situation has been further exacerbated by the market inequity created by the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program.
“The market conditions mean there will be no work for around 600 full time jobs for the foreseeable future.
“However, the difficult but necessary action we’ve taken allows us to preserve 1,150 full time jobs at Dinmore during this challenging period while protecting the long-term future of our Dinmore facility and our other Queensland beef processing operations.”
Mr Eastwood said he was aware of the impact this decision would have on families in Ipswich and surrounding areas.
It is understood the decision has been made in order to scale the operation back to a five-day production shift, rather than two shifts, five days a week.
Labour costs amount to 70 per cent of the cost to process an animal.
JBS had also sought direct financial assistance for Dinmore workers from the State Government.
“We are in the process of engaging directly with our workers, alongside the relevant unions with coverage on site, regarding the impact of the decision and we thank them for their constructive approach to those discussions which are continuing,” he said.
“Where possible, we will be seeking to offer work to those Dinmore team members impacted by the decision in other areas of our business subject to position availability and skill set.
“Dinmore will continue to be both a major employer in Ipswich and Queensland and will remain a major contributor to the local, state and national economy.”
It is understood these cuts will help shore up jobs at JBS’ meat processing facilities in Townsville and Rockhampton.
Mr Neumann, who got his first job as a cleaner on the killing floor at JBS Dinmore, said it was “one of the saddest days Ipswich has ever had.”
“It’s catastrophic for the Ipswich community and it’s devastating for these local workers and families,” he said.
“It’s terrible for our local economy.
“These are the people that shop in our supermarkets, our restaurants, our cafes and our leagues clubs.
“These are absolutely rock solid, salt of the earth people who work hard in a tough industry.
“I’m calling on the Morrison Government to do the right thing. They’ve tweaked (JobKeeper) all over the place.
“They’ve stubbornly and arrogantly refused to provide assistance to these Ipswich workers.”
Mr Neumann said he understood the plant will close again in the middle of the month and reopen again on August 21 under its new five day production shift.
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.