Warrnambool abattoir manager says new meatworks testing requirements are 'discriminatory'

Midfield Meats, Warrnambool. Picture: Morgan Hancock
Midfield Meats, Warrnambool. Picture: Morgan Hancock

An abattoir manager has slammed the Victorian government's new coronavirus testing requirements for meatworkers, saying it's "discriminatory" to his industry.

On Wednesday the state government announced a quarter of workers in meat, poultry, seafood processing and supermarket and refrigerated distribution centres would now be tested for coronavirus every week.

Around 28,000 workers across 95 businesses work in these industries in Victoria.

Midfield Meats Warrnambool general manager Dean McKenna, based on Victoria's south west coast, criticised the announcement, saying it was unnecessary because Warrnambool had no recorded cases of the virus.

Midfield Meats general manager Dean McKenna has slammed the new rules seeing a quarter of high-risk workplace employees tested for COVID-19 each week. Picture: Anthony Brady

Midfield Meats general manager Dean McKenna has slammed the new rules seeing a quarter of high-risk workplace employees tested for COVID-19 each week. Picture: Anthony Brady

"We are totally amazed that this ruling has been put in place," Mr McKenna said.

"There are no coronavirus cases in Warrnambool.

"We have strict protocols in place at Midfield regarding the virus. We think this decision is discriminatory against our hard workers at Midfield.

"However for the safety of people in Warrnambool and in this region we will abide by the decision handed down by the state government."

Warrnambool has not recorded a coronavirus case since September 16.

It comes as coronavirus fragments have been found in sewage at Anglesea despite no positive cases in the area.

A testing site has been set up there.

"That's no virus that we know of," said Premier Daniel Andrews.

"These businesses know and understand this is in their interests and it's in everyone's interest right across the whole state to have that sense of monitoring.

"This thing can simmer, it can be out there and not necessarily be obvious to you."

An Australian Lamb Colac spokesman said it was waiting for the guidelines to be issued.

 Australian Lamb Colac. Picture: Jason South

Australian Lamb Colac. Picture: Jason South

It welcomed the state government's green light to increase worker capacity.

"ALC welcomes the government's decision to ease restrictions affecting Victoria's regional meat processing industry," he said.

"We can now move to 90 per cent production capacity as seasonal demand for our product begins to increase.

"The government's decision to wind-back bans on meat processing and workforce numbers is also good news for local employment in the lead-up to Christmas.

"ALC is recruiting again, with job opportunities for workers across all our floors and shifts."

All medium and large employers in the sector will be asked to ensure a quarter of the workforce is tested every week at the 200 testing sites across the state from Thursday.


The rapid response testing team will deployed to regional and rural workplaces.

Coronavirus testing lead for the Department of Health and Human Services Jeroen Weimar said the blitz was about ensuring no virus was entering high-risk workplaces.

"These industries are not dangerous but we know if the virus enters there's a higher risk of spread," Mr Weimar said.

"A quarter of staff will be tested for every week for the foreseeable period.

"By the middle of October we expect the first 25 per cent of the force to be tested.

"It's important to ensure we understand where the virus is circulating, it's not an indication that people need to wait for that surveillance testing to come back.

"You can continue to work if you are asymptomatic, you don't need to isolate unless you do become symptomatic."

Premier Andrews also announced the regular testing of aged care workers.

Regional aged care staff will be tested every month and metropolitan workers will be tested every fortnight.

Workers who are asymptomatic and not linked to an outbreak are not required to isolate while awaiting their results.

This story New meatworks testing requirements 'discriminatory': Abattoir manager first appeared on The Standard.