Tackling non-compliance in the meat and poultry processing industries

3 June 2024
Tackling non-compliance in the meat and poultry processing industries

The Labour Hire Authority (LHA) has recently increased its education and compliance work in the meat and poultry processing industries.

These industries have historically seen significant rates of worker mistreatment and exploitation, so are defined as prescribed industries under Victoria’s Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic).

This means most businesses that supply workers to host businesses to perform services such as killing, preparing, processing or packing meat or poultry are considered labour hire providers.

Around two per cent of all licensed labour hire providers in Victoria operate in the meat and poultry processing industries. This reflects the concentrated nature of labour in these industries, where a single facility may host up to 800 workers and process 1,000 animals per day.

The industries are also at higher risk of worker exploitation due to their high proportions of migrant workers from a range of backgrounds, including PALM scheme workers.

Compliance and enforcement in meat and poultry processing

LHA has identified several common compliance issues within the meat and poultry processing industries, including when workers are:

  • underpaid wages, denied payment of superannuation, or have unlawful deductions for expenses that should be provided by the business that pays them
  • underpaid or terminated when they go on WorkCover leave
  • provided substandard accommodation
  • made to operate in unsafe work environments or are not provided appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Meat and poultry processing businesses sometimes attempt to conceal potential exploitation of workers, including through worker misclassification or complex supply chains.

LHA has cancelled a number of labour hire licences in the meat processing industry to date, after uncovering non-compliance with legal obligations through LHA’s intelligence-led compliance program.

LHA also undertakes compliance checks through visits to meat and poultry processing sites. During a site visit, LHA compliance officers may ask questions or ask to see documents that demonstrate what a business is doing to meet their legal obligations. This may include details of a provider’s labour hire licence, or information about the providers that a host is using.

LHA may also coordinate with other regulators and agencies such as WorkSafe, the Department of Health, Australian Taxation Office, Victoria Police and the Department of Justice and Community Safety for site inspections.

Recent compliance issues at facilities in suburban Melbourne

LHA identified two unlicensed providers and a range of other potentially non-compliant behaviour at site inspections of meat and poultry processing facilities in December 2023.

LHA officers reviewed records and interviewed workers, providers and hosts at four facilities in suburban Melbourne.

Issues identified for investigation included whether providers were meeting their legal obligations to:

  • provide a safe working environment
  • make superannuation contributions for their workers
  • provide breaks required under the Meat Industry Award 2020
  • provide PPE (such as safety boots) at no cost when workers require it for their work.

Education and engagement in meat and poultry processing

In line with its heightened focus on compliance in the meat and poultry processing industries, LHA has increased its education and engagement activities with businesses and other stakeholders.

The approach – similar to LHA’s recent engagement with the horticulture industry – uses a range of tools and channels to support providers and hosts to understand and comply with their obligations.

Industry-specific information is being published on the LHA website, in the LHA News monthly e-newsletter, and in fact sheets and other materials. This is supported by targeted information sessions at a range of locations and online, and engagement with relevant industry and worker organisations.

More tailored sessions are planned for later in 2024 – keep an eye on future editions of LHA News, and the Events page on the LHA website for details.

Upcoming LHA campaign for meat and poultry processing workers

Labour hire workers in the meat and poultry processing industries will be the target of an upcoming communication campaign by LHA.

Building on the recent campaign targeting horticulture workers, this new activity will launch in the coming weeks, across digital, social media and press channels.

The campaign will aim to raise meat and poultry processing workers’ awareness of their rights and how to report unlawful treatment by labour hire businesses.

Information for workers – along with English and translated versions of posters, handouts and digital assets – will be available for download on a dedicated webpage. Further details about this upcoming campaign will be published soon.

More information

For more information for meat and poultry processing businesses, visit the LHA website, or download Meat and poultry processing: Guidance for labour hire providers and hosts.