|Issue No 22||16 July 1999|
Workers' Rights Butchered
Meatworkers at a southern NSW abattoir are being forced to pay their own workers compensation insurance after being moved onto body hire arrangements.
Yanko-based Rockdale Meats, one of the largest operations in the state, have recently moved to transfer their 450 staff onto individual contracts through a labour hire company, vacating itself of all responsibility toward the workers.
Instead workers have been told to take out their own income protection insurance to cover workers compensation, superannuation and other entitlements.
Because of a shocking accident and injury rate amongst meatworkers, abattoirs have one of the state's highest workers compensation premiums levels.
Under the arrangements individual workers could face insurance policies of more than 10 per cent of their total income.
Labor Council safety watchdog Mary Yaager says the move to avoid premiums is a worrying trend, particularly given the current deficit in the WorkCover fund.
Members of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union and the Australian Workers Union have appealed to the WorkCover Authority to investigate the issue urgently.
Yaager says a High Court Ruling finding that labour hire workers are not deemed to be "employees" under workers compensation law, appears to have been the trigger for the company's move.
"It's outrageous that a company in a dangerous industry like this would totally wash its hands of its workforce," she says.
AMIEU NSW branch secretary Charlie Donzow says the move by Rockdale Meats is part of a pattern of anti-worker practices. "Since the plant's inception, Rockdale Meats has operated on the basis of fear and intimidation of the workforce," Donzow says .
"The workers aren't happy about it, they've been forced into this set up knowing that if they don't they'll lose their job."
Donzow says the push to labour hire seems to be a concerning trend developing across the meat industry. "If the cowboy employers keep doing this genuine employers will have difficulty competing."
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005