By Anthony Benbow
Three hundred meatworkers at the Harvey Abattoir, 100 kilometres south of Perth, have been on strike since September 19. Harvey Abattoir is owned by E.G. Green & Sons, one of WA's biggest meat processing and export companies. Since last October, the workers, members of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, have been trying to win wage increases by negotiating a new enterprise agreement.
"BRW magazine lists this company as the 254th most profitable privately owned firm in Australia", said AMIEU organiser Graeme Haynes. "They are WA's biggest meat exporters, but refuse to increase their employees' wages to match normal levels in the industry."
According to the AMIEU's WA secretary, Glenn Ferguson, minimum wage levels, in place since 1989, are still not being paid by the company.
At the start of a planned two-day "protective action" stoppage on September 19, the company tried to stand down the entire work force. Faced with this threat, the workers voted to strike and immediately mounted a 24-hour picket on the abattoir.
The picket is receiving solid support, with Transport Workers Union members and plant maintenance workers covered by the Metalworkers' Union refusing to cross it. Several local businesses are donating food and supplies to the strikers.
The workers considered returning to work on September 22. However, management refused to let boning room workers resume their jobs, preferring to let strikebreakers run boning operations. The workers then voted to continue the strike and picket.
The company is now threatening to lock out the entire work force for a week, but the picket line is holding firm.