One of Australia’s biggest meat processors says the Federal Government’s JobSeeker program is such a good deal the unemployed are not applying for jobs.

Key points:

  • Teys Australia says job applications are at a historical low
  • The company says the Government’s JobSeeker payment is too high
  • COVID-19 cases linked to Victorian abattoirs are also having an impact on the company’s worker shortage

Teys Australia’s corporate and industry affairs manager, John Langbridge, said the company had 150 vacancies for unskilled labourers, but applications were at their lowest levels ever, despite a national unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent.

The meat processor has eight factories across the country and employs about 4,500 workers, mainly in rural and regional locations.

JobSeeker recipients can receive up to $1,300 a fortnight, but the Government has announced it will reduce the payments from September 24.

The Teys Australia plant at Naracoorte, in South Australia.(ABC Rural: Jemima Burt)

Mr Langbridge said the government had done well to keep the economy primed, but financial aid was putting people off applying for jobs.

“People seem, for whatever reason, a little but too comfortable with the current circumstances to be chasing those jobs down,” he said.

“That’s the thing we’re pretty keen to see Government do — manage the transition from where we are now, to basically the economy back up and running.”

Mr Langbridge said the vacancies included jobs for cleaners, butchers, tradespeople and administration workers.

Teys Australia said it had written to the Federal Government for help, but declined to specify what kind of changes would be required.

John Langbridge says people will need to be “weaned off” JobSeeker.(ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery)

Outbreak in abattoir not helping

Mr Langbridge acknowledged COVID-19 cases linked to abattoirs in regional Victoria had not helped the vacancy situation at Teys Australia.

He said since March a number of protocols had been introduced into the company’s Australian sites, including daily screening for workers.

“We really haven’t had any scares at all in the period,” he said.

“The environment is very safe.

Michael McCormack says the Government is working to address labour shortages, and that there are tens of thousands of jobs up for grabs in regional areas.(ABC)

Calls to keep JobSeeker

Australia’s meat processing industry has traditionally been one of the country’s largest employers of skilled foreign workers.

Speaking on the ABC’s Q+A program on Monday night, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the Government had extended some measures so that migrants on certain visas could stay in Australia to work.

“The Regional Australia Institute has identified 40,000 jobs in regional Australia right now, and not necessarily in agricultural or indeed the resources sector,” he said.

Linda Burney says Mr McCormack doesn’t understand the challenges people are facing in regional areas.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

But the Opposition says for every job vacant in the regions 28 Australians are receiving unemployment benefits

Labor’s Families and Social Services spokeswoman Linda Burney said official figures showed National Party leader Michael McCormack had no idea about how tough it was outside capital cities.

“McCormack’s been saying, ‘Come to the regions, there are plenty of jobs,'” she said.

“This actually proves that there are enormous amounts of people looking for jobs where there are very few jobs on offer.”

Meanwhile, New South Wales Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall told the ABC the state was “desperate” for workers and said JobSeeker needs to be slashed to encourage people to “get off the couch”.

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