CONCERNS: Shifts have been slashed at JBS meatworks at Dinmore.
CONCERNS: Shifts have been slashed at JBS meatworks at Dinmore. Inga Williams

JBS abattoir workers claim shift cuts are bull

AS THE enforced stand-downs at the JBS Australia Dinmore plant continue, another worker has spoken out against management practices at the abattoir.

Speaking anonymously, the worker backed claims by other staff regarding the stand-downs, saying live exports are not the only problem.

"They don't just want us broke, they want us broken," the staff member said.

"Our EBA expired in December 2015, we have had no pay rise since then."

The staff member said in the previous EBA negotations, staff on temporary work and residency visas were threatened with dismissal and being returned home.

"Negotiations did start for the new EBA, but then JBS took everything off the table, and there have been no discussions since.

"They are bullies, there is no other word for it."

While the loss of cattle to live exports caused some stock shortages, the worker said the problems go much further than just this issue.

"We are not ignorant to the farmers' plight, but they get help we don't, at the end of the day, there isn't anybody looking after us at the moment."

The worker said the live export trade has depleted cattle stocks, with the Chinese market now demanding more cattle.

"It is a national issue, Victorian plants have closed, and others are buying cattle from Queensland sales.

"JBS is as transparent as muddy waters, despite claims to the contrary."

Staff are only given 'a few hours' notice of closures, despite JBS knowing 'a couple of days' in advance, the worker said.

"We have had as many problems in the past as we have since JBS took over, I have worked at the plant under various owners, it was never this bad."

In similar situations, Australian Meat Holdings (AMH) allowed staff to use sick leave, if they were short on annual leave.

"The union has asked JBS not to take the public holidays away over Christmas, as a show of good faith, but we know they will do it."

"We are just frustrated this company is losing money, but they keep spending money, we make lots of money for the company every week."

Staff also felt left out over the issue of government support.

"Politicians and big corporations go hand-in-hand, they give hand-outs to JBS, but they never reached us on the floor."

The suspension of live exports to Indonesia in 2011 did not help the situation at Dinmore, the worker said, with farmers 'hanging onto' cattle.

"They have to cap live exports, there is no quick fix, but we need help to slow things down."

The worker said it is likely Dinmore will drop more shifts, but questioned if they will be allowed to 'import' workers when the situation improves.

"The former 457 Visa workers never went home, they are Ipswich residents now, so will they be allowed to bring more workers in from overseas?

"This company wants more productivity, but for no more pay."

With meatworks jobs 'physically demanding' the worker said staff would like to be recognised for their efforts.

"This is a very physically demanding job, and you are not dumb, you have to know what you are doing."

Responding to suggestions that employees should look for other work, the staff member said finding work is not easy.

"It is not easy to get another job, imagine us all looking at once, there are not enough jobs available."

Despite these concerns, JBS Australia is tight-lipped on the stand-downs and shift cuts.

The QT attempted to contact JBS executives, including plant manager Murray Wilson, who directed calls to spokesman John Berry. When the QT reached Mr Berry, he said the company would not make any official comment.

"I look forward to reading about it in the newspaper," Mr Berry said.

Asked if JBS would be commenting on claims by staff about EBA negotiations, Mr Berry said JBS would not answer any questions on the issue.

"The company is not commenting," Mr Berry said, before hanging up.