AUSTRALIA’S peak red meat processor body has called on Premier Daniel Andrews and health department leaders to consult directly on COVID-19 workforce caps on metropolitan plants.
The Australian Meat Industry Council made the plea to day to the office of the Premier, to Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton and to the Department of Health and Human Services.
AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said while it was shocking to see the outcomes of the response to construction industry interventions by this government, The Premier has mandated vaccination for the construction industry, stating there are more cases in construction than there are people in hospital with COVID.
“If DHHS have industry stats, are they able to provide the number of meat workers that have the virus which has ensured we need these workforce caps?
“We have not been informed nor consulted on these statistics, nor have our vaccination rates been considered,” he said.
“We believe that there are no sites that have had any onsite cases.
“This would no doubt be due to 25 percent of sites having more than 80 percent of workforce fully vaccinated and almost 50pc having between 50-80pc fully vaccinated, according to AMIC member data,” Mr Hutchinson said.
He said this meat industry data has been ignored by Premier Andrews, DHHS and the Health Minister.
As at today, AMIC has still not heard from DHHS, Victoria’s Health Minister nor the Victorian Premier’s department, despite writing to the Health Minister jointly with the Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) and Seafood Industry Victoria (SIV). As at today there has been no response.
AMIC said in another “ruse” from the government on consulting with the industry, a statement released by Premier Andrews on 20 September titled Business Consultation Helps Shape Path Out Of Pandemic, named AMIC as having been consulted with, and invited to, a roundtable of “industry leaders” with Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford.
AMIC said it was part of a group of 250 associations and individuals invited to a briefing by Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR). This is not industry consultation, the council said.
Leader of The Nationals, Peter Walsh, has also called on the Andrews Labor Government to work with industry – Meat supply at risk after processors overlooked in Victoria’s ‘roadmap’
AMIC said for every day the 20pc workforce reductions are in place, there is a growing impact on the supply chain including farmers, producers, processors, manufacturers, wholesalers, cold stores, independent local butchers, and supermarkets.
AMIC said its metropolitan processing and manufacturing members have had to spread their workforce up to a seven-day week, with tens of thousands of dollars being paid in penalty rates, loss of large contracts due to not being able to guarantee supply and one business reported that over 100 tonnes of Christmas hams have been diverted away due to processing constraints.
“We have nervous smallgoods manufacturers in metro Melbourne right now,” said Mr Hutchinson.
“They have said it all comes down to labour, if they can’t be certain they have the labour, they can’t forecast to meet the Christmas ham demand.”
With Australia’s major spring lamb “flush” now fully in operation, Metro Melbourne lamb processors, and Victorian and Australian lamb farmers, will be impacted severely, AMIC said.
Meat and Livestock Australia analysis (https://www.mla.com.au/prices-markets/market-news/2021/impacts-of-victorian-abattoir-restrictions/) has pointed out that if the workforce restrictions continue to Melbourne Cup day there is a potential lamb surplus of 250,000 lambs.
“We are also seeking clarification on what the “further obligations” mean in the roadmap with regards to meat processing,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“Will we as the peak industry body be consulted on these obligations?
“What is the Victorian Premier’s message to farmers and meat industry supply chain workers while these workforce restrictions continue?” he asked.
“What is the message to consumers as we manage a reduced food processing industry in Melbourne coming up to Christmas?”