Primo Wacol workers went on strike to demand better pay as negotiations with parent company JBS have dragged on since March.
Primo Wacol workers went on strike to demand better pay as negotiations with parent company JBS have dragged on since March. Cordell Richardson

'Struggling' meat workers strike for 'fair' wage increase

MEAT workers who went on strike yesterday have accused their parent company of delay tactics as negotiations over a pay increase drag on.

Workers from Primo Foods Wacol stopped work yesterday, calling for a 3 per cent pay rise and back pay or a sign on bonus equivalent to the extra money they feel they should have been receiving while talks over a new enterprise agreement have continued for seven months.

Australasia Meat Industry Employees Union organiser Warren Earle said meetings have been held with JBS since March and the latest offer put on the table fell well short of demands.

Employees in the smallgoods factory are also seeking to change a "short day" back to its original spot on the schedule on a Friday so they can enjoy a longer weekend, after it was moved to Monday at Christmas.

"We feel like the company is structuring a delay so it can pinch six or 12 months off workers by the time they get a pay rise," he said.

"The majority of our workers are on about 12c an hour above the award.

"Workers have voted down two proposals. We met with the company (Thursday) and they said the pay increase is 2 per cent on ratification of the agreement.

"At the moment to get through the Fair Work Commission, the ratification is taking four to six months to get rubber stamped so that means workers won't see a pay raise until next year.

"They want to hold the line on 2 per cent but forget they missed out on a pay rise for the past 12 months. That's just a tactic they use.

"These workers are working hard, they're not earning a lot of money and they didn't want to go on strike. They voted down two agreements and that's unusual."

Mr Earle said he did not believe the proposal on the table from JBS was enough for many of the "true blue Aussie" Wacol workers.

"Over the past three years, the minimum wage adjustment has been 3 per cent, 3.5 per cent and 3.4 per cent," he said.

"These workers are saying if 'I can't even get what the minimum wage adjustment is, I'm going to be going backwards'. They feel like they need to take a stand. We're not asking for a lot."

 

Hans workers striking. Rick Perry.
Primo Wacol worker Rick Perry. Cordell Richardson

Richard Perry, 43, said he was "absolutely fuming" with delays in negotiations.

He has worked at the factory for six years and is on the clock from 2.30-11am.

"The wage we're receiving at the moment is a pittance for the work that we do," he said.

"The company just needs to wake up and realise without the 600-odd workers they've got on the floor across both shifts, they don't have a business (here).

"It's the little people on the floor that are doing the hard yards. It's not the pen pushers or keyboard warriors upstairs."

Single father Cameron Greensill said his last pay rise was received in April last year and admitted he was "struggling".

"The cost of living just keeps sky rocketing," he said.

JBS did not respond to request for comment.