Union investigates raw deal for refugees at abattoir

Teys Australia Meatworks in Rockhampton
Teys Australia Meatworks in Rockhampton

AFTER months of deep concern about the treatment of refugees employed at a Rockhampton abattoir, the union is stepping in.

The Australasian Meat Industry Employees union is heading to the Teys Australia Lakes Creek Meatworks site this morning to meet with workers.

The union's industrial officer Lee Norris said he couldn't provide full details at this stage, but confirmed the union was worried.

He said he had heard reports of raw deals for about 100 workers, many of whom have been employed through a humanitarian program.

"The union has some concerns and will meet with the workers to investigate," Mr Norris said.

Just grateful for the opportunity to live in Australia and terrified of losing their jobs, migrants working at Teys Australia Lakes Creek abattoir would not speak publicly.

But The Morning Bulletin has spoken to a number of reliable sources including those close to the employees.

And while an abattoir is not generally known for being pretty, the reports coming in suggest a workplace culture which is seriously underdone.

They have relayed reports of workers being allegedly underpaid, forced to perform tasks not all of them are physically built for, overcharged on rent and squashed into accommodation.

"I think in general the nature of the work and the culture is stuck in the 1950s," one source said.

The Bulletin tried to contact Teys Australia yesterday but calls and emails were not returned.

Industrial disputes saw the meatworks temporarily shut down in 2002.

But in recent years, the story of refugee employment at Teys Australia's Rockhampton site has been touted as a national tale of multiculturalism at its best.

In 2005, Teys imported 60 Vietnamese meat workers to work at its Lakes Creek abattoir, joining 97 Brazilian workers already at the plant.  

At the time, Teys said a shortage of skilled workers in Australia had forced the company to look overseas.  

"We have lost people because of the opportunities being offered to them by the mining industry," a Teys spokesperson told The Morning Bulletin in October, 2005.  

A publication released this year called Settlement Works - Stories from Rockhampton, tells how Teys  Australia has made living and working in Australia a possibility for hundreds of asylum seekers who have fled war and horror.

COMPASSIONATE COMPANIONS: Haider Ali Ahmadi and Abbas Ali Rezai have found that they are able to support each other as they adjust to life away from their families.
COMPASSIONATE COMPANIONS: Haider Ali Ahmadi and Abbas Ali Rezai have found that they are able to support each other as they adjust to life away from their families. Contributed

According to Settlement Works, between April 2010 and February 2012, Teys employed 480 humanitarian refugees. 

Teys Australia told the report humanitarian refugees working at the Rockhampton meatworks had addressed a critical skills shortage.  

"Without humanitarian refugees and skilled migrants, Teys would find it very hard to continue production at sustainable levels at some sites, particularly in Rockhampton and Biloela," the report said.  

But there were signs of dissatisfaction.  

In February 2012, 306 were actively employed, while 174 had moved on or resigned.  

"Of the humanitarian refugees who resigned or moved on from the meatworks, the main motivation for leaving was that the work was not as expected, although some who left for this reason stayed for up to six months," the report said.  

"Others who stayed between three to six months left to meet up with family overseas and stayed overseas longer then the company allowed.  

"This resulted in these men being designated as resigned or having left their employment."  

Topics:  abattoir settlement works teys australia

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