CMG meatworkers stand strong

Issue 

BY TERRICA STRUDWICK

ROCKHAMPTON — On February 27, 500 anxious workers gathered to discuss the campaign to save their jobs, with pay and conditions intact, at Consolidated Meat Group’s Rockhampton plant. More than 1300 workers are yet to return to work after being told on January 12 they no longer had jobs.

CMG, owned by Kerry Packer, has applied to terminate the factory's current enterprise agreement in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, after negotiations with the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) were terminated.

Les Cooke, an AMIEU consultative committee member, told Green Left Weekly that “the solidarity shown throughout this cause has been marvellous”, and the continuing will to fight was evident at the meeting. Although many fears were expressed — especially of losing cars and houses, and families being torn apart by the need to find work — workers were determined to fight CMG tooth and nail.

Before the lock-out, CMG meatworkers were among the lowest paid workers in the industry, and had by far the worst working conditions. Now CMG is using the threat of closure to strip them of the conditions they have left. To do this, they are using the draconian anti-union provisions put into the workplace relations act in 1996 and 1999.

Max Wood has worked in the industry for more than 20 years and is angry at what CMG is doing to the workers. “You work your arse off all year”, he told GLW, “and at the end of it when they pretend times are tough they give us the sack”.

“They kick us out on the street and give us nothing”, he added, “while they sit around thinking of ways to rip us off ...they've already pushed us to the limit.”

Paul Hodges has been a meatworker for 10 years and was enraged to find out he had no job to go back to. He thinks the conditions they want the workers to return to are ridiculous: “They want us to go back to conditions that are completely unfair. We've done nothing but lose since the enterprise bargaining agreements came in and now they want us to take a third cut in our wage and do more work. That just doesn't sound right in this day and age.”

Workers have received overwhelming support — financial and moral — from the community. So far the workers’ action collective has received $2000 in cash and $3500 in grocery donations. The collective aims to raise funds to repay charities which have helped the workers out.

From Green Left Weekly, March 6, 2002.
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