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Issue #1929      August 24, 2020

OP-ED

Not everyone getting a fair chop with JobKeeper

Meat-workers working at the JBS Dinmore abattoirs are facing a grim and uncertain future as the plant readies itself for another 2-week shut down starting on 24th of this month.

Workers at the plant have endured stand downs over many weeks that have seen their incomes slashed by forty per cent.

Due to the qualification requirements for the federal government JobKeeper scheme these workers have been left with no financial assistance whatsoever.

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

JBS have an annual turnover in excess of 1 billion dollars. The JobKeeper scheme requires the company to record a fifty per cent loss in turn over before they become eligible for the subsidy.

These workers through no fault of their own are bearing the brunt of a system that should have been designed to protect them but instead has let them down dreadfully.

JBS have said the availability and price of suitable stock has forced their hand in this decision. Numerous meat processors are receiving JobKeeper and unfortunately the playing field has been skewed in their favour.

Some processors who have an annual turnover of less than 1 billion dollars have genuinely qualified to receive JobKeeper due to a thirty per cent reduction in turn over.

Some larger processors are using relationships with third party labour hire companies to rort the system and receive JobKeeper assistance by deception.

These companies use much smaller labour hire companies that have a turnover less than 1 billion dollars to provide labour to their plants. These labour hire companies only have to show a reduction in turnover of thirty per cent and they are then eligible to receive JobKeeper assistance.

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 a criminal offense to milk the system in this way.

What this rort causes is an unlevel playing field when competing for stock. 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.

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

I call on the federal government to shut down the rorts and to urgently change the system to help and support these 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.

It’s time to step up and help these workers. This needs to come from the Federal Government they have elected.

* Matt Journeaux is the Queensland Branch Secretary of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union.

Next article – PitP Report – Against the fees hike for Arts and Humanities degrees, Perth

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