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05 August 2020
By DEAN LAWSON
Member for Ripon Louise Staley has urged regional communities as well as state and federal governments to ensure people affected by severe meatworks restrictions have support they need.
Ms Staley said Ararat and Stawell abattoirs helped form an economic foundation for both centres and restrictions would have a profound flow-on impact on many families.
She said while tough restrictions were necessary to suppress a surge in COVID-19 cases, she felt for people whose lives would be turned upside down.
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“There is going to be a need for a lot of help from governments and the community for people in our region,” she said.
“Some people will be able to access JobKeeper support, but many will end up on JobSeeker. It is going to be a very difficult time for them and the broader community.”
Meat processing and distribution centres in regional as well as metropolitan areas have to reduce their working capacity by a third under strict new rules.
Circumstances vary considerably between regional meat-processing businesses, some operating with hundreds of workers and others with relatively few.
Frewstal managing director Robert Frew in Stawell said he was confident his lamb-wholesale firm could keep a staff of about 420 ‘on the books’ through modified work scheduling.
“We’re not in too bad a position. We’ll just have to stretch our people out a bit and instead of working four days they will be working five,” he said.
“We’ve been lucky with staff having holidays and rostered days off up their sleeves. If the pandemic keeps going through October and November it will hurt us quite a bit.
“Hopefully we can get back to full production as quick as we can.”
Ararat Meat Exports is awaiting further details regarding restrictions before making any decisions.
Managing director Michael Stapleton said the firm was running through all scenarios of how it could comply with restrictions and the hope was it would continue to operate.
“At this stage it looks as though it will come at a considerable cost to the business,” he said.
“We’re weighing up whether it’s worth continuing to produce meat or to shut down. Our aim is to keep operating. In the next two or three days we will find out if it is financially feasible to continue at a two-thirds capacity.
“We employ about 300 people and it is weighing on our minds heavily. There will be some changes and we’ll try to share the workload. Whatever happens will have a big impact on the local community and economy.
“But they’re the cards we’ve been dealt and we have to adapt and work as best we can.”
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy, meanwhile, is calling for small meat-processing plants to be exempt from the downsizing.
Ms Kealy said cutting staff numbers by a third in some regional abattoirs would force some to close and threaten supply.
Victoria is back in the grip of intense six-week restrictions as the government attempts to get a high number of COVID-19 cases under control.
Melbourne is in harsh stage-four restrictions, while regional Victoria will be back under stage-three rules tonight.
In returning to stage-three restrictions, people in the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians fringe areas must stay at home except to buy necessary goods or for medical care or compassionate reasons, to exercise, work and study if necessary.
They can travel in regional Victoria, but not for holiday accommodation or camping, and can continue to shop to meet essential needs under social-distancing restrictions.
No visitors are allowed in households and only two people or members of a household can gather in public.
Remote learning has resumed for school children except for vulnerable children and children of essential workers. Special schools, childcare and kindergartens remain open.
Restaurants and cafes can provide only takeaway and delivery services, and pubs and clubs can operate only bottle shop and takeaway services.
Beauty and personal-care services, apart from hairdressers, must close but retail stores can remain open based on necessary goods and services.
Community outdoor and indoor sport is also out of action.
Rules differ significantly for metropolitan Melbourne as part of stage-four restrictions.
A full list of latest restrictions is available on the Department of Health and Human Services website, www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorias-restriction-levels-covid-19.
• Figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services show the Wimmera had 10 confirmed active cases of COVID-19. Within municipal boundaries, Horsham had six, Northern Grampians two, Ararat one and West Wimmera one.
The entire August 5, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!