This letter was addressed to the Secretary, from an ex abattoir worker.
I worked in the meat industry for over 45 years mainly at Riverstone Meatworks, Riverstone and Homebush Abattoir from 1943 to 1988 in the maintenance departments, I believe many meatworkers working on the mutton, beef and pork killing areas were unknowingly exposed to asbestos contamination all their working life.
As you would be aware all machinery to operate the chain system was located in areas above slaughter floors, on these platforms including electric motors etc, were boxes of asbestos rope in open boxes used in lagging the steam pipes, which run above the moving chain. To lag exposed steam pipes it was then covered in plaster of paris to seal the asbestos, but boxes of it above was blown on the area below by the air coming in to cool off the working area below.
As I worked in the application of this dangerous asbestos, we know the workers below could be at risk, but the dangers then was not really known!!
I am now in my 80's, I often worry many of my fellow workers could have been in danger of exposure, and once contaminated it takes many years to show its dreadful symptoms. Fortunately, I was not contaminated.
I would also like to advise Union Officials that a gravestone which is located in St Patricks R/C cemetery, on the corner of Windsor Rd and Pennant Hills Rd erected in 1880 to a 16 yr old George O'Neil, who died from "tetanus" in the employ of the Sydney Meatworks, erected in esteem by his fellow meatworkers. The gravestone is in excellent condition, considering it has been standing there for 128 years.
As all of my family including my late father was employed at Homebush Abattoir, I thought this great show of esteem to a fellow meatworker was a great show comradeship and respect!! As it said, "SYDNEY MEATWORKS", I would think it referred to the one at Walsh Bay, as only SMP (FJ Walkers) of Parramatta Rd, Auburn could qualify, as Homebush was only built by Public Works in 1913, and my father commenced there in 1916. But, I feel it was the one at Walsh Bay, where all the cattle were railed into yards at Lilyfield and White Bay.
That huge area is now overgrown and mainly disregarded; but the rail line is still intact.
Anyhow, I hope that by me taking the time to advise you of these bits of fact and history is not taken as the rantings of some old coot, but in much respect of my fellow workers.
The inscription on the headstone reads;
To the Memory of
who died of lockjaw
4th August 1880
through a slight
accident he received
at the early age
of 16 years
by his fellow workmen
as a token of sympathy