Close×

A number of suspected illegal boarding houses in the northern NSW town of Tamworth that house Thomas Foods abattoir workers are being shut down following a media investigation.

 

According to the findings of the Fairfax Media report, migrant workers at an abattoir run by Australia's largest family-owned meat company Thomas Foods International (TFI) have been living in overcrowded lodgings.

 

Since its report was published, Tamworth Regional Council has begun clearing out 12 boarding houses - which are not operated by Thomas Foods - according to Fairfax Media.

 

Thomas Foods is Australia's largest family-owned meat processor, and it supplies lamb and mutton to large customers including Woolworths, Aldi, Coles and McDonald's.

 

In 2015, the company told a Senate inquiry into the treatment of workers on 457 visas, that more than half of its abattoir staff were backpackers and 457 visa workers.

 

According to the Fairfax Media report, some of the workers, who are mostly from Korea and Taiwan, said they must live in boarding houses that are controlled by a local "house master" if they want to be hired and hang on to their jobs,

 

Thomas Foods has since said the safety and wellbeing of all its staff was its "utmost priority" and that, if allegations about unlawful residential arrangements were proven to be true, it would immediately terminate its arrangement with the labour hire agency.

 

"TFI does not, and will not, condone any unlawful practices by a labour hire agency and will not engage an agency found to be operating illegally in any way," the company said in a statement.

 

The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, meanwhile, is pushing for new laws which would force Thomas Foods and other businesses to hire locally.