Workers walk off the job at Victoria's biggest abattoir

Staff at JBS' Brooklyn plant down tools over coronavirus concerns

JBS SHUTDOWN: JBS' Brooklyn abattoir has again shut down, this time after industrial action by one of two unions, representing workers on the site.

JBS SHUTDOWN: JBS' Brooklyn abattoir has again shut down, this time after industrial action by one of two unions, representing workers on the site.


JBS' Brooklyn plant again closed over coronavirus concerns.


Victoria's biggest abattoir, JBS' Brooklyn, has again shut, after cold store workers at the site walked off the job over coronavirus concerns.

The United Workers Union, which covers the 150 cold storage staff, said the action was in line with the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The UWU is one of two unions, representing workers at the site, but the action means the plant has again had to close.

It comes after 71 positive cases connected to the JBS outbreak, and 15 days after the abattoir was ordered to close by the Department of Health and Human Services.

JBS reopened this week.

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United Workers Union Victorian branch secretary Susie Alison, said during that time, the company had not responded to many of the workers' concerns about the safety of the site.

"JBS has consistently failed their workforce by not communicating with their workers and by not consulting with their representatives," Ms Alison said.

"These workers have been battling through this crisis with almost no support.

"They don't want to have gone through all that only to walk back onto the floor and catch the virus."

Ms Alison said workers across the country were getting wise to the way companies thought profit was more important than people.

The UWU had written to JBS, asking them to explain how they would keep workers safe.

But the union representing abattoir workers on the site said its members wouldn't be joining the industrial action.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union state secretary Paul Conway said he'd been asked if his members wanted to join the action.

"I said no," Mr Conway said. "We seem to be mangaging working through the issues, but it will mean it will mean it will stop production - our guys won't be able to work either."

Mr Conway said he hoped the dispute would be resolved quickly.

The AMIEU had been in constant contact with JBS senior management.

"I would say, credit where credit is due," he said. "They have done what they can - if you are going to have a pocket of workers anywhere, you are going to have problems."

Ms Alison said the company responded by telling the union they would meet with them, only after workers return to work.

In a notice to the company, JBS cold storage workers told the company that "without safe systems of work and without adequate information, instruction and training" there would be a "serious and immediate threat to... health or safety, namely a high threat and degree of risk to the COVID-19 contagion".

Ms Alison said In one alarming report, a worker who returned to the site on Monday, July 27, had yet to complete 14 days in isolation.

The worker remained on site for more than an hour before being sent home.

There were also lingering questions over JBS' conduct, in the lead up to the outbreak.

Workers had reported that social distancing measures were inadequate, with afternoon and day shift crossing paths in a confined space with no social distancing, balaclavas were being shared between workers and management had not taken concerns raised with it seriously.

Workers have been forced to isolate over the last two weeks, some forced to draw upon their leave annual entitlements while others were left without any income at all.

In one case, a JBS worker who was saving his annual leave to help care for his soon to arrive newborn.

Ms Alison said the mother would be getting a c-section and would need help caring for the child.

Like many workers, the company started subtracting the worker's annual leave without his consent.

The union has been calling on JBS to provide additional paid leave for the workforce.

Workers felt the extra paid leave would be a fair compensation after they contracted the virus at work and through no fault of their own.

The union asked JBS to provide workers with information on how they will manage:

  • Supply and use of appropriate masks
  • Laundering of cloth masks and other Personal Protective Equipment
  • Cleaning in particular of high touch and traffic areas
  • What type and when will hygiene training take place
  • Screening of current and/or new employees for coronavirus
  • Social distancing and shift separation

JBS has been contacted for comment.


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