MAJOR meat processor JBS Australia has announced its employees will receive COVID-19 pandemic leave payments as it starts the process of closing its meat processing facility in Brooklyn, Victoria, for an indefinite period.
The closure decision was reached following extensive consultations with the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria.
The company said the persistence of community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the directives from DHHS have meant it is impossible to operate JBS Brooklyn in the current COVID environment.
JBS Brooklyn’s beef and lamb processing workforce will be stood down for the period of time it takes for the Victorian Government and the Department of Health and Human Services to contain the community outbreak of the coronavirus, the company said. JBS’s customers have all been informed separately.
The number of COVID-19 cases linked to the JBS Brooklyn plant rose to 138 yesterday.
The company’s Dinmore plant west of Brisbane – the largest beef processing facility in Australia, with normal daily operating capacity of 3400 head – will also shut for at least a fortnight from Monday 24 August, but due to difficulty in generating viable kills in the face of a drought-impacted livestock supply.
Pandemic leave payment follows DHHS quarantine order
JBS Australia said its eligible Brooklyn beef and lamb workforce will be entitled to the pandemic leave disaster payment following a DHHS determination for our beef and lamb team members to quarantine for 14 days from their last shift.
JBS Southern chief operating officer Sam McConnell said JBS has worked tirelessly with the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union and Victoria’s Department for Jobs, Precincts and Regions to ensure that its workforce will be able to access the entitlement.
“I would like to thank those partners for the collaborative nature in which these discussions were held to ensure that we arrived at the right outcome.
“The health and well-being of our employees, and the wider community in which we operate, is of paramount importance to JBS Australia,” Mr McConnell said.
“As a company, we recognise that our workforce is our greatest asset and we hope that access to this payment goes some way in addressing any concerns around job security and pay during Brooklyn’s closure.”
Victorian AMIEU secretary Paul Conway said that securing the pandemic payment was an important win for its members who have been working hard to support Victoria’s meat supply during COVID.
“JBS has been in constant communication and consultation with the AMIEU and the DJPR to ensure that workers at JBS Brooklyn’s facility will be entitled to the pandemic leave disaster payment.
“Their engagement with all stakeholders through this process and the measures they have introduced at the facility to protect their workers has been of the highest industry standard.”
JBS Australia said it looked forward to continuing to work with the AMIEU, Victoria Health and DHHS to ensure JBS Brooklyn beef and lamb processing operations could resume as soon as possible.