Meat union backs JBS on COVID Jobkeeper payment distortions

Beef Central, 13/08/2020

Meatworkers working at the JBS Dinmore abattoir in southern Queensland are facing a grim and uncertain future as the plant readies itself for a two-week shutdown starting on 24 August.

In a statement issued today, the Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union says workers at the plant have endured short working week stand-downs over many weeks since mid-year, that have seen their incomes slashed by 40 percent.

“Due to the qualification requirements for the Federal Government JobKeeper scheme, these workers have been left with no financial assistance whatsoever,” the AMIEU’s Queensland branch secretary Matt Journeaux said.

“They cannot even receive JobSeeker (unemployment) payments because technically they still have a job.”

Under the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme conditions, JBS Australia’s annual turnover in excess of $1 billion means the company must record a 50pc loss in turnover before it becomes eligible for the subsidy.

“Through no fault of their own, these Dinmore workers are wearing the brunt of a system that should have been designed to protect them, but instead has let them down dreadfully, Mr Journeaux said.

“JBS management has cited the availability and price of suitable stock for forcing their hand in this decision to close. At the same time, numerous other meat processors are receiving JobKeeper, and unfortunately the playing field has been skewed in their favour,” he said.

Some processors, which had an annual turnover of less than $1 billion, had genuinely qualified to receive JobKeeper, due to a 30pc reduction in turnover. However some larger processors were using relationships with third-party labour hire companies to ‘rort the system’ and receive JobKeeper assistance by ‘deception’, the AMIEU claimed.

“These companies use much smaller labour hire companies, which have a turnover less than $1 billion, to provide labour to their plants. These labour hire companies only have to show a reduction in turnover of 30pc, and they are then eligible to receive JobKeeper assistance,” Mr Journeaux said.

“It does not take a genius to work out that those savings are then being transferred to the host employer, who in turn is making a motza. This is a disgraceful situation and it should be an offense to milk the system in this way.”

The situation caused an uneven playing field when processors were competing for livestock, he said.

“The taxpayer is paying a premium for cattle, while the workers are being thrown the crumbs. Cattle prices in Australia are now the highest in the world and the JobKeeper premium is playing a major part in this,” Mr Journeaux said.

“JobKeeper was a great initiative that was designed to help workers keep their jobs, and helped support them throughout this Covid-19 crisis. Instead, for meatworkers, it has become a tool used against them with absolutely no support for them or their families.”

The AMIEU called on the Federal Government to shut down the ‘rorts’ and to urgently change the support system to help the Dinmore workers through this time.

“These workers are doing it tough. I certainly could not care less about the politics of this, but these workers deserve better and this Federal Government has an obligation to make sure they do. They are salt of the earth working people who pay their taxes. They work hard and at the moment they need a hand,” he said.





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  1. Georg gebski, 14/08/2020

    labour hire companies are in fault in every industry government should close down every labour hire company

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