Workers doing it tough
AFTER two decades working on the Killarney Abattoir kill floor, one former meatworker is preparing to fly 900km to a job in a Central Queensland mine.
The 43-year-old, who preferred to remain anonymous, counts himself among the fortunate few.
“I’m going where the work is; you have to do what you can to save your house,” he said.
In February the man was one of 130 meatworkers stood down when Dudley Leitch “suspended” operations at his three meat entities on the Darling Downs.
Despite being owed thousands of dollars in holiday pay and superannuation the man and his wife, who also worked at the abattoir, have been without an income for over two months.
He admitted relief at this week’s announcement Leitch Pastoral Group including the Killarney Abattoir had been put into formal liquidation, because it means he will be able to access his entitlements through the Federal Government Employee and Redundancy Scheme.
“It’s been bloody tough,” the man said. “People are losing their homes, struggling to feed their kids, their businesses are in trouble.
“What makes us bitter is (Dudley Leitch) still owns a lot of rural land and he owes people money but his home is not on the market.”
It is a sentiment shared by Killarney Butchery owner Greg Power.
“The town doesn’t have the life it used to; before nobody was rich, but everything kept rolling over,” Mr Power said.
“We still have customers, but now they only buy the cheaper meat cuts: its only sausages, no steak.
“It has a flow-on effect; I’ve had to consider my staff numbers because business is down.”
Mr Power said more former abattoir workers had found part-time jobs in the region, but the long-term outlook was far from positive.
“The economic climate being what it is, there just isn’t much full-time work around,” he said.
But there have been some community positives to the depressing Killarney Abattoir saga.
Busy At Work apprenticeship co-ordinator Donna Howard said three of the 27 trainees she supervised at the abattoir had now found new placements.
“Carey Bros at Yangan created positions for two of our young fitters and turners so they are now able to finish their training,” Mrs Howard said. “While Wickham Farms found a position for another.”
But Mrs Howard said she suspected many of her other charges were forced to forget training and take on casual work wherever they could find it.
“It becomes a matter of putting food on the table so you can’t be fussy about work,” she said.
In Warwick, one of the city’s largest employers, the Big W Distribution Centre, has employed 20 former meatworks staff on a casual basis.
Big W Distribution Centre manager Stephen Gray said his organisation was committed to sourcing employees locally where possible.
Another 10 meatworkers stepped into roles with John Dee abattoir.
John Dee Warwick production manager Warren Stiff said the workers had filled positions throughout the general production area.
Australian Meat Industry Employees Union industrial officer Chris Newman said he was also aware of several Killarney Abattoir workers relocating to take up positions with other processing plants.
“We have made moves to help any workers who contacted us because they were in pretty desperate situations,” Mr Newman said.