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Union to push for determined Mareeba meat workers

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.

Solidarity among Mareeba workers demanding an end to 457 visa workers taking their jobs at the local Steggles chicken abattoir. front: Ros McLennan, Secretary Qld Council of Unions; Ian McLauchlan ,Assistant Secretary AMIEU; Fred Brunjes, local AMIEU delegate; Member for Cook, Billy Gordon

“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.

Halal wants more than its share of the pig

from Larry Pickering

I want to make it clear that I would never endorse, condone, or encourage the use of someone else’s trademark. That is an unlawful activity and is punishable by court order.

What interests me from disclosed documents from the Federal Court of Australia is that they show just how substantial halal certification fees are and that there is disagreement among Muslims about what does and does not require certification.

It also highlights the giant pyramid-style scheme of halal certification in this country.

Two small retail outlets were taken to court for unknowingly displaying halal certification documents that had been falsified. The court documents show that had these two small kebab retail outlets paid for the halal certification it would have cost them $5000 each per year.

That is quite an overhead for a small business to have to absorb in this economic climate.

It is also noted that they believed the meat supplied to them from “Quality Kebabs” was halal certified so they didn’t think it was necessary for them to have to pay for “certification” as well.

The court document goes on to say:

“Quality Kebabs has obtained the benefit of operating its business on the basis that it has been certified by the applicant when, in fact, it has not. There are no great difficulties in assessing the expense Quality Kebabs has avoided having to pay by falsely asserting it was certified by the applicant. Mr El-Mouelhy’s documentary evidence was that his fee (without GST) to wholesalers was $27,090 in 2012, $33,580 in 2013 and $34,510 in 2014. I accept that Mr El-Mouelhy’s prices are likely to be at the upper end of the market (he is, after all, a Rolls-Royce and not a Mini) but it was Mr Kose who chose to steal a Rolls-Royce.”

So the two small retail outlets were charged just nominal damages of $10.00

But note this; “Quality Kebabs” had to pay what was equivalent to the 2012 fee of $27,090.00 plus a 50% uplift which equates to $13,545.00. On top of that they had to pay the 2013 halal certification fee of $33,580.00, plus 50% uplift, which equals $16,790.00!

That makes a total of $91,015.00. Now that doesn’t include what “Quality Kebabs” would have had to pay for 2014 which would have been $34,510.

What these court documents don’t address (because they don’t need to) is the fact that for “Quality Kebabs” to be halal certified they would have to source their meat or chicken from a halal certified abattoir or chicken processor, in this case Steggles.

We know some abattoirs pay up to $27,000 a month to be halal certified. That is $324,000 a year. We have also seen a receipt where one chicken processor is paying $40,000 per year!

I have reported previously on a driver who drove a chicken supply van from a chicken processor to the take-away shops and he was charged $500 in halal certification fees. He also had to back-pay fines to the imam when he failed to get certification for a few years.

This is one example of the giant pyramid scheme going on within the Australian halal certification industry. So you can have an abattoir spending $324,000 in halal fees. Then the transport company is paying hundreds to drive the product to the supplier. In this case the supplier has to pay $34,510 in halal fees. Then the transporter may again have to pay a few hundred dollars to a halal certifier. Finally the little retail outlet has to pay $5000 in halal certification fees.

This totals in excess of $364,000 paid in halal fees, just on a small part of the kebab market!

Is this all absorbed by each company and NOT passed on to the consumer? I seriously doubt that!

So the next time you hook in to a kebab, sit back and think about how you have just lined the pockets of halal certified agents along the way.

The person in this court case (Mr El-Mouelhy) has been quoted on national television as saying the profits have made him a millionaire and he is in it, “to buy his wife’s shoes!”

So who are the bullies?

Are they Australian consumers who have had enough of paying for an Islamic religious rituals imposed on their fast food and grocery products, or are they the halal certifiers making a motza out of the unregulated and highly debated practice of charging fees for halal certification?

Court judgment: