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Abattoirs brace for ‘significant disruptions’ as Community and Public Service Union members walk off the job

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
Abattoirs across Australia are bracing for major disruptions as Government-employed meat inspectors and vets push ahead with planned industrial action.
Camera IconAbattoirs across Australia are bracing for major disruptions as Government-employed meat inspectors and vets push ahead with planned industrial action. Credit: Brad Thompson/The West Australian

Abattoirs across Australia are bracing for major disruptions this week as Government-employed meat inspectors and vets push ahead with strikes that could cause operations to “grind to a halt”.

Members of the Community and Public Service Union were expected to walk off the job for an hour on November 8 and November 10 as part of the protected industrial action.

The CPSU has also imposed an overtime ban as it remains locked in a wider pay dispute with the Federal Government to secure a 20 per cent wage increase over three years for all Commonwealth public servants.

Peak national body the Australian Meat Industry Council has condemned the action — which only affects processing plants with accreditation for international export.

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AMIC chief executive Patrick Hutchinson claimed the strikes would “see meat exporters’ operations grind to a halt”.

AMIC chief executive Patrick Hutchinson.
Camera IconAMIC chief executive Patrick Hutchinson. Credit: RegionalHUB

“We are seeing massive increases in livestock waiting to be processed as stock are being sold to meat processors in anticipation of a dry season, so this action couldn’t come at a worse time,” he said.

“Red meat exports are the largest within the agricultural sector and it is extremely careless for the CPSU to take action which puts our industry at risk when we aren’t a party to this dispute or negotiations.”

Mr Hutchison accused the CPSU of using the meat industry as a “bargaining chip” against the Federal Government.

“We unequivocally condemn this action and urge the CPSU to keep the fight in house,” he said.

Australia is home to 86 export works — including eight in WA — running 94 shifts across 92 processing chains.

Countryman understands about 300 CPSU members employed as meat inspectors and vets were expected to take part in the strike action.

But no staff had walked off the job at the WA Meat Marketing Co-operative’s Katanning plant, WAMMCO chief executive Coll MacRury said on Wednesday.

WAMMCO chief executive Coll MacRury.
Camera IconWAMMCO chief executive Coll MacRury. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

“We haven’t been impacted, but I can’t speak for anyone else,” he told Countryman.

“There is (CPSU members employed by WAMMCO), but they’ve said at this stage that they’re not doing it (striking). It doesn’t mean they won’t down the track, but at this stage, we’re okay.”

The action comes as many abattoirs — including WAMMCO — are running an hour or more overtime daily to meet demand.

Mr MacRury said WAMMCO was solidly booked for the next “three or four months”.

“The problem is, for some plants, depending on your work regime, if you have a 10 hour-working day, then potentially your Friday is an overtime day,” he said.

“So potentially a Friday could get wiped out if it’s a total overtime ban.”

A spokesman for another export abattoir in WA’s Great Southern — who did not want to be identified — said the plant was also unaffected.

CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said the action followed the union’s rejection of the Albanese Government’s revised pay offer of 11.2 per cent over three years.

“Our union came to the bargaining table with a pay claim that was front loaded because our members were telling us that the cost-of-living crisis was biting now,” she said.

“Unsurprisingly, the Government’s revised pay offer which did not take on board this message from union members, failed to garner clear support from employees.”

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