Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union boss Troy Baker has hit out at meat processing company JBS, saying that it fleeced workers out of their entitled redundancy pay.
A total of 40 employees from JBS’ Longford abattoir were made redundant on Tuesday, after the multi-national company decided to extend its sheep plant closure.
However, the AMIEU chief said that this figure had been “fudged”.
When the plant initially put operations on hold in February, the employees were kept on the JBS books, meaning they were not eligible for any government benefits or welfare.
The 140 employees were also not eligible to claim any severance pay, due to the future uncertainty of the Longford plant.
According to Mr Baker, this forced 99 employees to resign from their positions in order to make ends meet, rendering them ineligible to claim future redundancy entitlements.
“Over the period, there were about 140 [JBS workers] laid off,” Mr Baker said.
“Ninety-nine in the initial one and handfuls of little groups were laid off afterwards.
“They’re saying a lot of them have resigned, so they’ve been excluded off the books.
“The resignations were done under financial duress. People had to resign to get some sort of government benefit and have a wage in the period.
“It’s just a backhanded way around [for JBS] to pay out the least amount of redundancies.”
Mr Baker has also called for the state government to provide job training to former JBS Longford employees.
“At the moment there’s very little opportunity for work,” he said.
“I would like the government to step up to the plate and provide some kind of industry training package.
“I think it’s only reasonable when we are talking of upward to 100 people to provide funding for a bit of training.”
Primary Industries and Water minister Jeremy Rockliff said the state government are looking at re-training options.
“The extended shutdown of the JBS Australia lamb line is disappointing but is not unexpected,” Mr Rockliff said.
Unfortunately this is in part a fallout of a prior drought which has impacted on the number of lambs in both Tasmania and on the mainland and farmers are still rebuilding flocks.
“The Skills Response Unit, established by the Government, is meeting with impacted workers to discuss possible work and retraining opportunities in the region.”
The TFGA were unavailable to comment on the issue.