Cowra Meat Processing employs around 200 workers but struggles to find staff. In 2018, general manager, Peter Browne, visited Samoa to interview workers through the Pacific Labour Scheme. In early 2019, seven men from Samoa started work at the processing facility.
The red meat manufacturing industry in Australia faces challenges in accessing enough skilled and unskilled workers in regional and rural Australia.
According to the Australian Meat Industry Council, 63 per cent of meat processors are unable to run at full capacity because of the lack of available labour.
This challenge is demonstrated in regional New South Wales where Cowra Meat Processing has struggled to recruit local workers.
“We are probably the largest employer in Cowra, but local recruitment has been difficult. We have tried employment agencies, but this hasn’t worked,” Peter said.
“Over the years, we’ve spent around $500,000-$800,000 dollars in training—to achieve nothing. Then we came across the Pacific Labour Scheme. We thought this was too good to be true and it has turned out to be very successful for us.
“We now have seven permanent reliable workers from Samoa. A typical worker takes three months to learn but the Samoans have picked it up in three or four weeks, which has been a tremendous saving for us instead of carrying people to learn. We have saved thousands of dollars already!
“The Samoan workers are very keen to work, keen to please, excited about the work and very passionate. It’s a pleasure to have them on site. There are no issues, you ask them to do anything [and] they’ll do it. And when they’ve finished, they’ll ask—what’s next?
“They are very kind people and very appreciative of a job, and that’s what we like. Their enthusiasm carries to other workers. This has been very good for us and we’re very excited about it.”
Peter actively sought ways to involve the Samoan workers in the local community and when they arrived, he introduced them to the Cowra rugby team. To help the Samoans play, the club even bought one of the men a pair of football boots.