WA meatworkers locked out
By Glenn Ferguson and Geoff Spencer
PERTH — Workers at Preston River abattoir at Dardanup in south-west WA have been locked out in a dispute over unfair contracts. The lockout followed the union's (AMIEU) decision to lift a six-week picket to clear the way for negotiations.
The union is pressing for a 25% loading, payable weekly, to cover sick leave, holiday pay, rostered days off and other entitlements avoided by the company in the past.
The abattoir, which was non-union until early 1992, provoked a strike when it attempted to unilaterally impose below-award contracts while the union was attempting to negotiate an enterprise agreement. Preston River has a history of failing to pay out leave and other entitlements during the seasonal shutdown that is common at many abattoirs. Some workers have lost thousands of dollars in this way.
The union also claims the abattoir had been deducting the workers' 3% occupational superannuation payment from their wages rather than paying it as an additional entitlement. Moreover, the deductions have not been paid into an approved super fund, but held for the use of the company.
The dispute began after the abattoir closed down and then reopened under the management of a new shelf company, Cottonwood Holdings, which conned the workers into becoming "limited partners". When the 20 workers realised they had been duped and protested against being coerced into below-award contracts, they were sacked.
The workers responded with a 24-hour picket, which they maintained despite multiple arrests. The AMIEU has the full backing of the WA Trades and Labor Council, but it has taken three weeks after the lifting of the picket to even be granted a hearing by the WA Industrial Relations Commission.
Messages of support and donations may be sent c/- AMIEU, Suite 102, Labor Centre, 82 Beaufort St, Perth, WA 6000.