Union delegate kept out in the cold

April 11, 2018

UNION delegate Darrel Holgate doesn’t have the answers his workers are looking for.

When the Echuca abattoir closed in March, Mr Holgate said management told employees to direct any questions they had to him.

But Mr Holgate had been left in the dark as much as anyone else.

‘‘I’m just frustrated,’’ Mr Holgate said.

‘‘Because I’ve got no answers and everyone wants answers from me and they (Riverside Meats) won’t answer anything.

‘‘It was a very quick meeting (when management announced the facility was closing) ... and they said, ‘If you’ve got any questions ask Darrel’. But there was no use asking me because I didn’t know anything.

‘‘I can only tell the workers what I’ve heard and what I think I know but a lot of it’s rumours, it’s nothing concrete.’’

Mr Holgate said employees, who are owed more than $600,000 in total from the company, were desperate for money.

‘‘Some of the workers were week to week,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve had blokes ring me who have said ‘I’ve got $5 in my bank and I can’t even go to Centrelink because I need photo ID and it’s $50 for an ID’.’’

As for Mr Holgate, he said he was in the middle of searching for a job too.

The father-of-three from Lockington worked at the facility for 17 years.

‘‘I only got back from holidays so I’m trying to find work now,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not like it used to be (when finding work seemed easier).

‘‘Now you’ve got to go online and go through skilled agencies and all that sort of stuff.

‘‘I’ve got 15 resumes in the car now so I’m just going to drop them in and hope I can get work.

‘‘Luckily Emily, my wife, is working or I would be up shit creek.’’

Other employees haven’t been so lucky.

And most have found the liquidation document — among other government information — difficult to understand.

Mr Holgate said the announcement that the company was going into voluntary liquidation did not come as a surprise.

‘‘None of it has been a surprise,’’ he said.

‘‘It (liquidation) has always been on the cards as far as I’m concerned.’’

Mr Holgate said the fact no assets have been listed in the document, could not be accurate.

‘‘They don’t have any vehicles on that list, nothing,’’ he said.

Now employees will try and get the money they are owed through government guarantee but even that, Mr Holgate said, did not include superannuation.

‘‘I don’t care what happens, as long as we get our money,’’ he said.

Riverside Meats was the first abattoir Mr Holgate, a slaughterman, has worked at.

The 36-year-old said the experience had not deterred him from working under another shed.

‘‘It hasn’t turned me off,’’ he said.

Anyone who works in the industry knows it can take its toll, Mr Holgate said.

Though not many will tell you the damage it does.

‘‘My thumb doesn’t straighten any more and I haven’t worked for a month and my elbow is still aching,’’ Mr Holgate said.

‘‘I don’t like whingeing but you’re asking so yes, it’s a hard job.’’

Looking ahead, Mr Holgate said he was not sure if the workers would call for a meeting from the liquidators. But if 5 per cent of his colleagues say they want a meeting, it will be held.

‘‘It would probably be beneficial for us to have it,’’ Mr Holgate said.

‘‘We’ve got at least two weeks to respond.’’

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