I read with interest that the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) is now calling for the number of cattle leaving Australia by boat to be capped.
The Union goes on to say that 580 workers have been without pay for many months due to an extended shutdown at the Townsville abattoir. They continue to say that those employees were spending $25 million in the local economy and that this money keeps going around for five times and is a more significant contributor to the local region compared to the live export trade.
Surely a fair point! However without live shipping producers are simply at the mercy of multinational processors.
Alison Penfold (Executive Director-ALEC) called on the meat and livestock industry to unite rather than fight amongst themselves.
Although I have every sympathy, for meat workers who have been stood down through no fault of their own, I really think we should keep things in perspective.
- A Meat Works employee is supplied with work clothes equipment at no cost.
- He or she is paid a salary range between $40,000 and $120.000 per annum, for 38hrs work per week.
- They get holiday pay, long service leave, leave loading, sick leave, maternity leave, superannuation and the list goes on.
- In 2014 hundreds of meat workers employed by Teys Cargill were paid bonuses amounting to thousands of dollars above their wages.
- At the time Tom Maguire (Teys Cargill) said to compete in the global market and protect Australian manufacturing and jobs employers and workers have to work together.
- Mr Teys stated that when the plant makes a profit everybody wins. Is it possible that in 2014 the only reason that processors made such a huge profit was due to drought that resulted in cattle producers being forced to sell off cattle to de-stock?
- One large processor was said to have made a profit of $21 million in 2012-13 and by 2013-14 profit had risen to $195 million.
- Compare a producer who runs 1000 cow units at say $7000 a unit their investment would be $7 million straight up.
- Then the producer would have to supply his own clothes all equipment and work seven days a week possibly 12 hours a day.
- They then find that they are struck with drought and this results in prices for their cattle that don’t even cover production costs.
- With this sort of scenario they are forced to go to the bank to borrow more money to keep them and their family afloat.
- They then find that as the drought tightens he is forced to sell more stock at lower rates.
- The average income of a Queensland cattle producer in 2013-14 went down to $-58,000.
- Whilst all this is happening in 2013-14 meat prices on overseas markets went ballistic. One processor compared the US market as being a freight train out of control and that processors could name their own price. They had a licence to print money!?
Now we have everybody talking about live shipping and keeping processing and manufacturing jobs in Australia. Could I ask how many people employed in the meat industry buy their clothes, electrical goods and other manufactured products from overseas simply because it’s cheaper? The fact is; most of us buy on price.
Surely the time has come when we must realise that we can’t have our cake and eat it too and the time has come to look after the goose (the cattle producer) that lays the golden eggs for without producers there is simply no industry.