MEAT workers fear jobs will be lost in Inverell if the federal government does not make moves to cut live exports.
Speaking outside New England MP Barnaby Joyce's campaign office in Tamworth on Tuesday, local workers and union delegates were armed with placards and banners and fighting for their job security.
Meat Workers Union spokesman Grant Courtney said the New England area had the second largest population of workers in the nation, with 1200 in Inverell alone.
Mr Courtney has called for balance on the live export issue, he believes there should be a cap on the amount of cattle being shipped out of the nation so the downturn in meat processing doesn’t hit close to home.
“Clearly there’s already talks within the New England area, a whole shift has gone at Scone. In Inverell there’s changes in their shift practices at the moment and, in other words, there’s going to be a reduction in cattle being processed.
“A reduction in shifts means a reduction in jobs, and we want to protect local employment.”
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said he continues to meet with meat workers and unions in relation to the issue. “I meet with the union all the time officially and unofficially, I also go out to the meatworks all the time,” he said.
“I reckon I’ve probably been through more meatworks than any other politician.
“I understand how politics works and this is a highly-coordinated union campaign. I’ll just take it on the chin and deal with it.” Mr Joyce said the Tamworth protest highlighted the unionists’ fundamental lack of understanding of how the red meat industry supply chain works.
“The Coalition government has not and will never choose live animal exports over meat processing jobs,” he said.
“Live animal exports and the domestic processing sector complement one another, and have successfully coexisted for many decades.”