Jobless north Queensland meat workers are in Canberra tomorrow to talk about the live cattle export trade destroying skilled regional jobs.
Hundreds of meatworkers are without employment across northern Australia as the live export trade for overseas abattoirs consumes the vast majority of the current northern Australian herd.
Meatworkers will be inviting politicians to visit the Jobs Embassy opposite Parliament House and talk about how these issues are impacting regional communities, especially in north Queensland.
Australian Meat Industry Union of Employees Queensland acting secretary Matt Journeaux said there were currently around 580 meatworkers in Townsville without a job.
“There are also hundreds of other workers who have been stood down due to lack of cattle in other centres across Queensland,” he said.
“We’ve come down to Canberra today to make sure this issue hits the national agenda.
“Local families relying on this income are facing financial hardship. Their cars are being repossessed because they have no income, or they have to dip into long service leave simply to survive,” he said.
He attributes the crisis to drought and increased demand from the live export trade, which in 2015 was on track to be the highest ever year for the number of Queensland cattle shipped overseas.
The increasing live export trade brings limited benefit for Australian workers, as the labour intensive component of processing occurs offshore, he said.
Mr Journeaux outlined several long term implications from the current situation.
“There are concerns that large scale grazing companies are entering joint venture operations with live exporters, further reducing the number of Australian cattle for local kill.
“If local meatworks are forced to close permanently this may lead to reduced competition, ultimately leaving graziers with limited market opportunities,” he said.
“Currently, skilled local meatworkers are being forced to leave the industry and find other employment, creating a risk of skills shortages when production is able to resume.”
The AMIEU is seeking discussions with all levels of governments to take immediate action to address factors creating production shortages and to protect the future of northern Australia’s meat processing industry.
Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan said it was important that the federal government heeded the concerns of regional Australia about local jobs.
“These are skilled, private enterprise jobs in regional Australia. This federal government is lying about its jobs mantra if it allows increasing live exports to freeze out these meat workers,” she said.