TAMWORTH council will issue notices to shut down 12 “illegal boarding houses” following a Fairfax Media investigation which revealed migrant abattoir workers living in overcrowded lodgings.
On Monday it was revealed that Thomas Foods’ migrant abattoir workers were living in a network of overcrowded boarding houses allegedly arranged by labour-hire agents, which the meat-workers’ union has labelled “a national disgrace”.
Tamworth Regional Council General Manager Paul Bennett said they were contacted in late-August about eight homes in the city “operating as illegal boarding houses” and will issue notices to 12 properties in the coming days.
“Once the notices are issued under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the owner has 14 days to submit an application for approval for the operation of a boarding house or 30 days to demonstrate that the premises are not being used as a boarding house,” Mr Bennett said in a statement. If the owners fail to comply with the notices, council could proceed with court action.
Council has already shut down one illegal boarding home in West Tamworth which housed 19 people.
It was contacted about eight homes in West Tamworth, South Tamworth and Westdale which are alleged to be operating as illegal boarding houses in August.
Notices will also be issued at four other addresses – at North Tamworth, Hillvue, West Tamworth and South Tamworth – which council officers subsequently discovered during their investigations. Thomas Foods, the city’s largest private employer, was recently in the spotlight after requesting that council waive a series of wastewater charges and non-compliance fees.
Council agreed to refund $34,160 in sewer usage charges and slash Thomas Foods’ mass non-compliance charges from July 27 to November by 50 per cent.
At the time, Cr Murray said the company had been a “very good corporate citizen”. However he told The Leader yesterday that, if the allegations were true, there was “no excuse” for the living conditions. “There’s no place for less than appropriate employee housing,” he said.
The Fairfax Media report dented the mayor’s previously-held confidence in the company’s local corporate citizenship.
“With this information, Thomas Foods has got a little bit of work to do to regain my confidence,” he said.
Thomas Foods said it was taking the allegations against the labour hire agency very seriously. “If allegations around unlawful residential arrangements are proven to be true, and therefore in breach of TFI's strict policy requirements, TFI will immediately terminate its arrangement with the labour hire agency," it said.
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