Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash
Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash

Federal Minister won't support JBS workers

AS WORKERS sat down with Federal Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O' Connor in Ipswich, Michaela Cash, the current Federal Employment Minister, hoped a 'mutually beneficial outcome' could be reached in the dispute with JBS.

The statement, attributed to a spokesperson for Ms Cash, was sent just as workers sat down with Mr O' Connor.

"The Government acknowledges that over the past months JBS has had to make some tough yet critical commercial decisions to respond to changing market conditions but also to preserve jobs.

The Government is aware of ongoing enterprise bargaining at the Dinmore site. That is a matter for the parties involved. The Government encourages the parties to bargain in good faith to reach mutually beneficial outcomes that balance the needs of the employer and employees.”

The full statement was attributed to a spokesperson from the office of the Minister for Employment, after a request for questions to the Minister be submitted via email for a response earlier this week.

However the response did not address a number of questions to Ms Cash, who is also the Minister for Women.

The initial question to Ms Cash, covered by the emailed response, asked if the Minister would intervene in the ongoing situation, to try and encourage both sides to reach a workable resolution.

Ms Cash was also asked if she supported calls by Ipswich MPs Shayne Neumann (Federal MP Blair) and Jim Madden (State MP, Ipswich West) for JBS executives to also take a 25% pay cut each time workers were forced to drop a shift.

Unfortunately, the statement from Ms Cash's office did not state if she agreed with Mr Madden or Mr Neumann.

The following questions were left unanswered by Ms Cash and her spokespeople, despite the request for questions to be submitted in writing.

Will Minister Cash arrange assistance packages for workers, including financial and psychological counsellors, to help workers deal with their situation?

With workers facing five weeks with no paid work, will Minister Cash work with Ministers Tudge and Porter to allow workers to access federal social security payments at this time, if they can prove they are suffering a form of special hardship ie no accrued holiday pay due to attrition from covering lost shifts?

As Minister for Women, is Minister Cash concerned the female staff will face an additional burden, given many studies show women do a greater proportion of 'unpaid' work in domestic and family situations, including trying to run a household on reduced incomes due to shift losses?

Is Minister Cash (as Minister for Women) concerned these increased stresses may lead to domestic violence situations if there is not a change in the work situation for JBS employees, or access to Federal Social Security assistance?

Given workers accepted jobs at JBS in good faith, and on the basis of a 40 hour working week, spread across four days of ten hours each, does Minister Cash believe JBS - one of the largest meat processing companies in the global market -have a responsibility to treat their workers with more respect than has been shown in 2016?

Will Minister Cash travel to Ipswich to meet with workers representatives, to gain a greater understanding of the difficulties facing staff at JBS Dinmore?

At this time, it appears unlikely Ms Cash will be visiting Ipswich, based on the response of her spokesperson.

Previously, JBS has received many millions of dollars in Federal payments, will Minister Cash block any further requests for payments by JBS until this situation is resolved?

Can Minister Cash ensure no imported labour will be used to replace permanent staff if they leave due to the current regime of shift reductions? What powers does the Minister have in this regard, to ensure jobs must be offered to permanent residents before they are offered to workers in Australia on temporary visas?