This week I have had the opportunity to meet with John Hazeldene and representatives from management at Hazeldene’s. I also met off-site with a delegation of Hazeldene’s employees and former employees.
In the meetings I expressed my concerns about employment practices at the site, particularly the pay and conditions of workers at the facility who are employed by contractors, some of whom are on temporary visas.
It was confirmed by both Hazeldene’s management and the employees that some of the workers engaged by the subcontractors are international students and workers on working holiday visas.
I stand for local jobs. I am disappointed it has been confirmed that jobs are going to both foreign and permanent resident workers bused to Bendigo from Melbourne.
I was told by Mr Hazeldene these workers are only used in the boning facility, however it was unclear if these workers are employees of the contractor, individual sub-contractors or a combination. Mr Hazeldene said that they had all been offered, and refused, direct employment by Hazeldene’s.
I was also informed that in all other parts of their facility the company prioritises employing locals on contracts, and recruits many people locally to fill vacancies. I understand they have 720 direct employees and this makes them one of the largest private employers in the region.
The employees I met with work across various shifts in various departments of the facility.
They expressed concerns about the workers used by the contractors. They believe that some of these workers are not paid by the hour but a piece rate, by the kilo.
These workers also said that many were scared to speak out about their conditions in case they lose their job or face deportation.
They want to see these workers given an equal footing, to be given the chance to become an Australian citizen. At the moment they are treated as second class citizens.
Some young workers also told me they had friends who have applied for work at Hazeldene’s and have not been successful.
They told me that what they want is one workforce on one rate with one employer.
What I’d like to see is Hazeldene’s, employees and their union meet as soon as possible to resolve this situation.
I would encourage all of these workers to consider working directly for Hazeldene’s. It will ensure that there is one agreement with one employer for all workers at the site.
In regards to the concerns being raised that some workers are being paid piece rate, by the kilo, I believe this is not acceptable and this form of employment has no place in Australian workplaces.
I will be referring this matter to the Fair Work Ombudsman to be investigated. I believe there could be a breach of the Fair Work Act.