Stricter abattoir rules to stop coronavirus spread

By Jamie Salter

Regional abattoirs have been hit with further coronavirus restrictions as Victoria remains in a State of Disaster.

From August 7, meat processing facilities with more than 25 employees will be required to reduce to two-thirds of their peak workforce capacity and wear additional personal protective equipment.

“Workers in abattoirs will be kitted out in full PPE — gowns, masks and shields — more akin to what a nurse would wear,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“They’ll also be subject to routine testing.

“These changes will be enforceable.”

Poultry processing facilities will be subject to a 20 per cent reduction in staffing due to time sensitivity and animal welfare concerns.

HW Greenham and Sons group general manager Tom Maguire said they were working to ensure the new regulations were applied.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our people is our top priority as we work through what these changes mean for our business,” Mr Maguire said.

“We remain confident that we can maintain continuity of supply to our key customers during this period.”

Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said the impact of the restrictions would lead to a reduction in saleable meat in the Victorian community.

“The impact of these restrictions in Victoria, AMIC believes, will lead to a 30 per cent reduction in supply chain throughput overall, based on discussions with our membership,” Mr Hutchinson said.

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said the cuts to staff capacity would have abattoirs struggle to remain viable.

“Their business case will simply mean they’ll be losing money,” Mr Drum said.

“You worry about all these people — these people have got businesses that are heavily leveraged financially, strong employers, and now have been asked to operate at two thirds.”

VFF president David Jochinke said he had undertaken talks with government on the importance of implementing action plans to keep the agriculture supply chain open.

“We must implement the best protective measures for our businesses and our workers: face coverings or visors for employees, ceasing communal gatherings, installing screens/curtains, furloughing of staff, physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection measures and insisting on personal hygiene and use of sanitisers, minimising the number of people coming onto your farm,” he said.