Thursday, July 25, 2024

AWU calls out ‘cowboys’ in push for safer farms

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The NSW Assistant Branch Secretary for the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) Ron Cowdrey has slammed farm owners and managers that he describes as ‘cowboy operators.’

“If cowboy operators want to come here and roll out modern slavery like practices, or bully and underpay staff, or flout our customs laws and import pests and endanger our entire industry, then they can think again,” he said.

“The people in this district won’t cop it,” said Mr Cowdrey.

“A farm AWU visited last year where they handle dangerous chemicals had an emergency shower, but it wasn’t connected to water. Blind Freddy can see that’s a recipe for someone losing an eye or most of their face.”

The farm at the centre of the Union’s focus has been shared with The Riverine Grazier however investigations are ongoing.

“At this same farm there were foreign nationals who had almost zero training operating heavy machinery. 

“They could kill themselves or other workers. It’s just not on,” Mr Cowdrey said.

“This place had unguarded augers, now they can rip an arm or leg off, that shouldn’t be happening in Australia in 2024.

“You should be able to come home from work with all your limbs attached.

“This mob had unlicensed workers driving on the Sturt Highway. That endangers every local in this district. It’s disgraceful.

“And it’s not just new players. AWU has done inspections on big name companies who should know better, like GrainCorp in the Riverina, and found numerous safety concerns around storage of chemicals and amenities and access and egress,” said Mr Cowdrey.

“Working conditions on farms around Hay and Balranald aren’t getting worse, but the price of safety is eternal vigilance,” Mr Cowdrey said.

This article appeared in The Riverine Grazier, 19 June 2024.

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