Thomas Borthwick and Sons Meatworks and Abbatoir is looking for more workers.
Thomas Borthwick and Sons Meatworks and Abbatoir is looking for more workers. Stuart Quinn

Meatworks loses 150 workers in just months

EXCLUSIVE: The head of a Mackay meatworks will approach the State Government today looking for employment solutions to problems caused by a whopping staff turnover of 150 since February.

Thomas Borthwick and Sons meatworks processes more than 800 head of cattle a day and produces more than 40 million tonnes of boneless beef a year.

And despite the huge output figures, they're the smallest out of the company's meatworks, with around 400 employees.

General manager Pat Gleeson has gone so far as to advertise in the Northern Territory, after the closure of a massive abattoir there, and to approach Mackay people queueing for Centrelink, offering work.

"We could do with another 20-30 workers easily, from follow-on labourers, the ones that come in just green, through to your skilled meatworkers, your boners, slicers, and your A and B grade slaughtermen," Mr Gleeson said.

"We've had some interest from (Darwin after the closure of Australia's biggest abattoir) and we've put a note out on the old Facebook and we've had significant interest from all around Australia.

Today Mr Gleeson, along with other food, trucking and prime production bodies will be searching for a solution.

"I'm meeting with the State Government (today) to ask how do we get people through the front doors when we're crying out for the workers yet unemployment's continuing to rise," he said.

While Mackay's unemployment rate remains the lowest in the state, at 3.2 per cent, Queensland's has remained steady for the past year.

Mr Gleeson and Borthwick's HR manager, John Evans, have even queued up at Centrelink looking for workers who cost them $2500 per person to induct.

"We said we want to help you reduce your dole queue here, all the government officials got involved and we employed 75 on this pathways program," he said.

"We took long-term unemployed youth from the district, we had 75 we went through and in that whole program we had two that lasted a whole week."

Mr Gleeson has little sympathy for the people who can't make it to a workplace that makes every effort to care for its employees.

He said he's even gone so far as to organise carpooling because one trainee didn't have transport to get to the Bakers Creek abattoir.

"We have a high turnover of staff. In this day and age people don't like getting out of bed early.

"These guys are starting at 5am-6am," he said.

"Some of the excuses I hear, why people terminate their employment, just stagger me: my feet were sore from standing up, I've got a sore hand.

"We're really trying to promote our establishment here to be an employer of choice."

Mr Gleeson said that they'll do anything to help people climb the ladder.

He started at the bottom around 20 years ago and successfully worked his way up.

He said the company even supports spin-off industries such as IT, HR and administration and they take on sparkies and fitters and turners as well.

But still he loses employees because making a career with Borthwick's "didn't fit their lifestyle".

"We try to keep away from foreign labour as much as we can, we always want to offer jobs to the locals first and foremost," Mr Gleeson said.

According to the website, the average wage of a meatworks employee is about $23 an hour.

But despite the reasonable pay packet, it seems to be harder and harder to find those willing to stick out the job.


Thomas Borthwick and Sons Meatworks, Bakers Creek.
Kalib Hill was out of work for nine months before picking up a job at Thomas Borthwick and Sons at Bakers Creek. Stuart Quinn

Career progression a big bonus for meatworkers

YOUNG worker Kalib Hill has been with Borthwick's for about a year now after being made redundant from the mines.

Out of a job because of changes in the mining industry, Kaleb said he had been probably eight or nine months without work, despite trying to find something.

He even tried to find good employment in the Northern Territory, to no avail.

"I came back and hopped on Centrelink and then work providers put me onto Borthwick's and I've been working here ever since," he said.

"I've actually enjoyed it."

Kaleb said he's been learning new things and is looking forward to getting into slicing or boning.

Company HR manager John Evans said career progression was a big focus.

"Most of the guys I know in senior levels have started at the bottom and worked their way to the top," he said

"If anyone's keen to work, we're keen to support."

But despite the pathways, people aren't interested.

"I think we've had about 15-20 that have had their dole removed because there's a job here and they just don't even show up," Mr Evans said.

"We've even had their agencies ring them up and go around there and try to get them to work."