The news that 600 jobs are to be lost at the Ipswich, Queensland plant of the country’s biggest meat processor has been greeted with dismay by the Federal Member for Blair, Shayne Neumann.
“It’s one of the worst days we’ve had for years,” he said. “JBS is our largest private employer.”
‘I am devastated for these people’
Neumann was responding to the announcement on Wednesday that JBS is to scale back operations at its Dinmore plant in Ipswich, about 45km outside Brisbane.
“I am just devastated for these people, Neumann said, adding that it would be catastrophic for the local economy and the families involved.
“My first job in life was to work at Dinmore as a cleaner; my uncle worked there, my cousins worked there and my father worked there.”
Impact of JobKeeper a critical factor
The ALP Member for Blair reiterated previous concerns he has raised about the Jobkeeper program’s impact on the Dinmore plant.
“The Government is effectively providing JobKeeper to labour hire companies who are producing labour at a cheaper rate into other meat-processing plants,” he said.
“So those processing plants can bid higher for cattle. This is a distortion of competition; it’s driven up prices [and] they’re outbidding JBS.”
Industry’s margins are already compressed
Neumann added: “The margins are already compressed in the industry and the market imbalance has resulted in a poor outcome for these JBS employees.”
In its own statement announcing the job cuts, JBS listed several factors – among them a shortage of livestock, drought conditions and the effect of COVID-19.
The company has also been critical of Jobkeeper, saying it created inequality in the meat-processing sector.
Cuts will protect plant’s long-term future
JBS said the decision to reduce its headcount would protect the long-term future of the Dinmore facility and other Queensland beef-processing operations.
It would also allow it to preserve a further 1,150 full time jobs at the plant.
According to a report by ABC News, under JobKeeper eligibility criteria, companies with more than $1-billion in revenue must show a 50% drop in turnover, while companies earning less than that amount are required to demonstrate a 30% fall in income.
This had allowed smaller processors to pay more for cattle and keep their shifts.