||Issue No. 283||30 September 2005|
Revenge of the Footy Dads
Interview: Polar Eclipse
Industrial: Wrong Turn
Unions: Star Support
Workplace: Checked Out
Economics: Sold Out
Politics: Green Banned
History: Potted History
International: Curtain Call
Review: Little Fish
Poetry: Slug A Worker
The Locker Room
Hrowad’s Meixd Msesgaes
Petrol Price of War
Last Long Weekend
Brazilians Score at Rocky
The 98 South Americans have been welcomed into the North Queensland community and labelled a “success story” by local trade unionists.
Lakes Creek imported the workers on two and four-year visas but Queensland Meatworkers Union official, Lee Norris, has no doubt they will become "a permanent feature of the landscape".
"The union movement needs to recognise skills shortages, where they exist, and to rally around and draw these people into our family," Norris said.
"When there are qualified local people around we will go into bat for their right to work in the industry but when those skills aren't available we welcome others with open arms."
Norris says unions should draw a distinction between the poor training and vocational policies of the federal government, and working people brought in to cover the resulting vacancies.
The Brazilians came to Rockhampton when it became clear that the reopened Lakes Creek faced a chronic shortage of butchers, slicers and other skilled trades.
There were arguments between the company and the union as the parties sorted out ground rules at the greenfields site.
Time and again, the Meatworkers Union approached management with lists of locals looking for work and, gradually, with the aid of the Industrial Relations Commission, those issues were resolved.
Norris says that shouldn't impact on the Brazilians, every one of whom has joined the union and is being paid the negotiated rate for the job.
And, he says, they haven't just joined but have brought a strong collective culture from their homeland. In response, a Meatworkers' official has started learning basic Portuguese.
"They aren't just trade unionists, they are strong trade unionists," Norris says.
"They are enjoying life, fitting in, and contributing to Australia. They are a success story."
Kerry Packer's Consolidated Meat Group owned Lakes Creek but that entity shut its gates in July, 2002, throwing hundreds of North Queenslanders out of work.
The facility reopened, two years later, after a merger between Consolidated and Teys Brothers.
The Meatworkers Union engaged in long-running battles to ensure former employees were offered work. Today, the plant employs more than 500 people.
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