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Taken from the Meat Union Journal of Tasmania May 1967

Inquest on Overwork


"The half-yearly meeting of the General British Railway Company was held yesterday, the Chairman presiding . He was proud to say that they had got on an average, a good working week of 115 hours out of their men all round, and though there had been some complaining and a breakdown here and there, the whole result had been eminently satisfactory.  The system of keeping one driver on his engine twenty-five hours at a stretch and of sending a guard back straight off on a fifteen-hour journey had been found to work efficiently; and though some signalmen had protested on not being relieved for nineteen and a half hours, and in one or two instances had alleged that they were not able to totter to their posts and continue their labours, yet their prompt and instant dismissal had had a salutary effect and no insubordination of this kind was likely to be encountered in the future.  The saving of expenditure under this head had been therefore a matter for decided congratulation."


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Meat Industry Workers from Language Backgrounds other than English


Over the past 3 months, MINTRAC have surveyed 66 meat processing plants across Australia about the language backgrounds of workers whose first language is not English.


It was discovered across the meat industry that:


  • There are over 25 different languages spoken
  • There are almost 1900 workers who come from language backgrounds other than English in more than 40 companies.


The 5 most common languages other than English that are spoken in the meat industry are:


  • Portuguese (366)
  • Chinese (264)
  • Vietnamese (221)
  • Pilipino (186)
  • Malay (132)


MINTRAC identified approximately 250 workers from Sudan currently working in the industry, however as Sudan is made up of a number of different languages, it is difficult to ascertain the number of workers from each language background.


Out of the 1900 workers, MINTRAC found that 40% have very limited language skills; 39% have been identified by their trainers as having enough English to complete training, whilst only 11% are fluent in English.  Almost 60% of these workers are able to interpret workplace signs, but this figure includes some workers whose companies translate signs into other languages to assist their workers.  Only 19% of the workers can read and write English well enough to understand workplace documentation.


Approximately 42% are literate in their first language, though company representatives were unsure about 26% of trainees' first language literacy.

ABC Rural Tasmania - click on logo for connection!


A Rudd Labor Government's IR system will provide a safety net comprising 10 legislated minima, plus up to 10 further minimum conditions within awards, the Opposition has announced.  Labor's IR policy, forward with Fairness, released by the newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the ALP's national conference in Sydney last April, provides that the 10 minima (the National Employment Standards) would be guaranteed, and couldn't be contracted out of by agreement.  The policy says the safety net will underpin both the proposed collective bargaining system and common law agreements.

In the policy document, released just before delegates unanimously endorsed the ALP IR platform, Labor spells out its position on minimum conditions, good faith bargaining obligations, a "majority rules" system where employers decline to collectively bargain, minimum wage review arrangements, award simplification and rationalization, a new no-disadvantage test, agreement making and industrial action.

It also explains the functions of the new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, and reiterates Labor's commitment to a national IR system, to be achieved by legislation that will rely on all available constitutional powers.

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