IT TAKES someone with a particularly strong constitution to work in an abattoir, surrounded by blood and guts and death.
These people see first-hand the grisly reality of the meat trade before the cuts are put in pretty packages and sold in supermarkets.
Quite plainly, it is not a job for everyone.
The question is, are the region’s processors giving willing and able locals every opportunity to find out?
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) says “No”.
It says the likes of Baiada Poultry, Thomas Foods International and Teys Australia – some of Tamworth’s biggest employers – are too reliant on overseas workers.
The union estimates about half of the local 1200-strong meat processing workforce is comprised of foreigners living in Australia on temporary working visas.
This week, AMIEU representatives are in town to prove there is a dormant army of local workers falling over themselves for the opportunity to carve out a career in the industry.
They plan on presenting the three big abattoirs with the names and numbers of dozens of locals, aged predominantly between 18 and 45, who are unemployed and looking for work.
It is a noble cause.
With an unemployment rate of 8 per cent – and some estimating youth unemployment as high as 22 per cent – there is obviously a dire need to get more residents into work.
But, on the rare occasions these media-shy processing companies do speak publicly, they are adamant they simply cannot get enough locals to remotely meet their needs.
Which is, of course, where the foreign workers come in.
Thomas Foods International chief executive Darren Thomas told The Leader in June, at the announcement of a $25 million expansion of its local plant, that the company was increasingly trying to secure “young, non-migrant” labour.
“We’ve got to break the stigma that if little Johnny misbehaves down at the school, he’ll end up at the meatworks,” he said.
Again, it is a noble cause.
But the abattoirs have a job to do to convince the community they do not favour overseas labour merely because they can get away with paying them lower wages and working them longer hours.
Equally, the AMIEU has the difficult task of persuading us that abattoir work does not fit snugly into the category of jobs “Australians won’t do”.
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