A UNION is calling for Tamworth’s abattoir operators to reduce their reliance on foreign workers and hire more locals struggling to find work.
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) is in town this week collecting signatures of unemployed residents willing to work in the industry.
The campaign is designed to provide irrefutable evidence to some of Tamworth’s largest employers that they need not look to overseas workers to fill labour shortages.
Only an estimated 50 per cent of the 1200 people employed at the local Baiada Poultry, Thomas Foods International and Teys Cargill processing plants are homegrown workers.
The remaining jobs are filled with skilled and unskilled foreign workers on 457 and 417 visas respectively, while a small percentage go to people on humanitarian visas.
AMIEU Newcastle and Northern NSW branch secretary Grant Courtney stressed the union’s initiative was not driven by a “xenophobic agenda”.
Instead, he said it was about giving locals willing to work an opportunity to forge a career in the meat-processing industry.
“Our union’s position is clear: the local kid should get a start and have preference of employment,” he said.
“The union doesn’t have a problem with engaging international workers when there is a genuine need to engage those workers.
“With so many unemployed, employers should be focused on re-skilling and training locals as a priority.”
Mr Courtney said he did not accept the argument that foreign workers are needed to do the jobs that Australian workers simply will not do.
He said that, with more than 3000 unemployed people in Tamworth alone, it was inconceivable more locals were not employed in the industry.
“I struggle with those comments," he said. "There are companies within the meat-processing industry that have no problem finding and training local workers.
"They are taking, I believe, the career paths of our kids. There needs to be an independent test for whether there is a genuine need for this continuous flow of international engagement."
Any unemployed people looking for work are urged to contact the union via email on firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 4929 5496.
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