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Work arrangements in the Australian meat processing industry

Labour market research report

This report was released on 9 October 1998. Four appendices (C, D, E and F), which were not released as part of the original report, were added to the web version of the report on 11 December 2001.

This report examines selected work arrangements and assesses their implications for the performance of meat processing enterprises. The effects on employees are also considered, and the scope to achieve further necessary change is analysed. The study has drawn on information obtained from detailed discussions with industry representatives (including several meat processors), as well as previous industry studies.

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  • Media release
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The Commission today released Work Arrangements in the Australian Meat Processing Industry — the latest of its series of research reports requested by the Government on work arrangements in key industry sectors.

Gary Banks, the Productivity Commission's Chairman, said 'the main message in the report is that work arrangements in meat processing have been changing in recent years from the traditional, highly prescriptive arrangements that were holding back the industry's performance'.

Increased competitive pressure has led to some rationalisation in the industry and, with a more facilitative regulatory environment, has brought changes to work arrangements as firms strive to improve performance. The report finds that while changes have been concentrated among large, export oriented plants, changes have also occurred throughout the industry.

The most important change in work arrangements has been a move away from the highly prescriptive tally systems in industry awards, which involve complex formulae for allocating workers and remunerating them, based on the number of head processed. Increasingly, larger firms are basing remuneration on time worked and/or modified incentive payment systems with, in some cases, payment based on factors such as yield and quality. However, many firms, particularly smaller ones, still operate tally systems that continue to constrain performance.

Other major work arrangements examined in the report include: penalties and allowances; ordinary hours; seniority; and training. The Commission found some improvements in all these areas.

Firms have benefited through improved productivity, and in some cases an improved workplace culture with less disputation. Benefits to workers have included greater security of income, higher income overall, and improved training and career structures.

Nevertheless, the report emphasised that further improvements will be needed if the industry is to meet the challenge of increasingly competitive international markets.

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Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Abbreviations, Glossary, Key Findings, Overview

1   Introduction
1.1   Background
1.2   Objectives
1.3   Scope
1.4   Study method
1.5   Study outline

2   Recent trends in meat processing
2.1   Introduction
2.2   The red meat production chain
2.3   Consumption trends
2.4   Supply-side issues
2.5   Pressures for change
2.6   Summary

3   The meat processing workforce
3.1   Introduction
3.2   Employment
3.3   Workforce characteristics
3.4   Workforce characteristics
3.5   Summary

4   The institutional environment
4.1   Introduction
4.2   Federal and State industrial relations coverage
4.3   The Workplace Relations Act 1996
4.4   Unregistered and informal agreements

5   Structure of the workforce and hours worked
5.1   Introduction
5.2   Contract of employment arrangements
5.3   Recruitment and promotion arrangements
5.4   Termination and redundancy provisions
5.5   Hours of work
5.6   Shiftwork arrangements

6   Remuneration and on-costs
6.1   Introduction
6.2   Wage levels
6.3   Tallies
6.4   Penalty rates
6.5   Alternative means of remuneration
6.6   Labour on-costs

7   Functions, skills and general procedures
7.1   Introduction
7.2   Tasks and skills organisation
7.3   Training opportunities and career paths
7.4   Workplace consultation and dispute resolution arrangements

8   Change in work arrangements
8.1   Introduction
8.2   The institutional environment and the role of government
8.3   The nature of change
8.4   The benefits of change
8.5   The extent and pace of change
8.6   Enabling change
8.7   Further change

A   Meat processing awards

B   Tallies

C   The Red Meat Industry

D   Workforce

E   Workers' Compensation

F   Occupational Health and Safety