A determined display of solidarity among a large number of Mareeba residents who want jobs at the local Steggles chicken factory was the outcome of a packed public meeting on Monday night.
More than 160 previous and prospective employees demanded they be employed in preference to the large number of 417 Holiday Visa and 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) workers employed at the factory.
Organised by the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union Assistant Secretary Ian McLauchlan and Mareeba AMIEU delegate Fred Brunjes the rally was addressed by the General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions, Ros McLennan.
Steggles, owned by Sydney company Baiada, was accused by workers of employing temporary visa workers in preference to locals.
Mr McLauchlan told the meeting that the large roll-up at the racecourse venue was ample proof Mareeba people wanted to work.
More than 50 potential employees lined up to fill out Steggles work application forms which would be handed to the company’s HR department at the Mareeba plant.
“We are fair dinkum, we want to work but local people who hand in applications at the security gate say the forms never make it to the office,” Mr McLauchlan claimed.
“Somehow they get lost between the gate and the HR department.”
The Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter said he has been long opposed to the 200,000 overseas workers arriving in Australia every year on 457 visas.
“‘They are taking our jobs and undermining our pay and conditions,” Mr Katter said, apologising for not attending, due to commitments in Parliament.
Addressing the Steggles situation, he asked: “Who will you take as a worker, the bloke overseas used to working for $5 a day and 60 hour week and has a deportation order at your discretion?; or would you take an Australian who you have to pay a fair days pay for a fair days work?”
Member for Cook Billy Gordon told the meeting he remembered the problems of getting a job when he was a young man growing up in the Mareeba area.
“I picked mangoes at local farms and did other farm jobs years ago working around the area and being a young Blackfella in those days it was hard to get work when I was just out of school,” Mr Gordon said.
“It inspires me at the turnout here tonight with people standing up for families.
“There is 25 per cent youth unemployment here and it irks me there are companies out there not prepared to do the right thing by the community.”
Mr McLauchlan said Steggles job application forms were available at Mr Gordon’s office and urged applicants to fill them out then hand them to AMIEU delegate Fred Brunjes.
Mareeba Shire Council had been invited to the meeting, but Mr McLauchlan said he was unaware of any representatives in attendance.
He said Baiada senior management had agreed to meet with the union in Brisbane on Thursday to sort out the issues.