DOZENS of JBS Scone meat workers have walked off the job for the first time in four years, as the multi-national company introduces a new roster that includes compulsory Saturday work.
With the support of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU), the employees took two hours of industrial action at Elizabeth Park, Scone, in the hope to secure a better deal with the Upper Hunter’s largest employer.
AMIEU Northern NSW Secretary Grant Courtney said they were calling for the company to drop their claim when it comes to Saturday work.
“JBS is the biggest meat employer in the world, employing around 260,000 people in about 17 different countries; they can afford to look after these workers,” he said.
“This stoppage is about the company wanting people to work on Saturdays, in particular that they volunteer to work.
“They’re actually seeking now to have them work compulsory overtime work on Saturdays and they want them to do a minimum of 13.
“They’ve already done six voluntarily.”
Mr Courtney said JBS Scone employs about 400 workers, with a large contingent of temporary migrant workers, 457 labour, Filipino and Sudanese workers.
“Most of them work 10-hour days anyway; most of them work over time, on minimum wage, Monday to Friday,” he explained.
“And they’re local workers, lots of Scone people, lots of Aberdeen people, lots of people from Muswellbrook.
“Clearly these Hunter Valley workers here like their weekends, like their family and clearly love a beer, love a punt and love the footy and that’s Saturday for them.
“This is about enlightening the community about what we do.
“We are local people.”
JBS Scone employee Terry Hill said he attended the strike to send a strong message to JBS and stand strong in the fight for higher pay.
“They’re pushing for compulsory Saturdays but five days is enough, we deserve our weekends.
“They get enough voluntary workers on Saturdays so they don’t even need the compulsory work.
“I think we have about a quarter of the plant here today.”
Another Scone meat worker, Jesus Bebita, said he has worked at the plant for six years and wanted to voice his rights.
“They should let us work voluntarily on Saturday because it’s a family day,” he said.
“We are asking to be given the freedom and the choice to work on Saturday if we want to.”
The last time workers at the Scone abattoir took industrial action was in 2013, when 160 union members went on strike in a dispute with PRIMO in negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.
JBS Scone was contacted and said they would not be making a comment at this time.