Melb abattoir worker fears virus outbreak

·2-min read

A Melbourne abattoir worker says he and dozens of workmates weren't told for a week about a COVID-19 outbreak at their plant, which has so far infected four people.

Victoria's Department of Health was notified of a case at Westside Meat on September 30 that has since been linked to three other cases.

The employee, who spoke to AAP on condition of anonymity because he fears losing his job, worries he and about 100 others at the Bacchus Marsh plant were put at risk.

He said a crew of half a dozen workers did not arrive for their shifts at the plant on Monday, September 27 but meat processing continued as usual.

"I thought something was fishy ... but we were all in the dark," he said.

He said Westside Meat did not tell him until five days later that the crew supervisor, a man in his 30s, had been infected.

On Friday October 1, staffers were given a larger than usual amount of beef and lamb to process before being told to go home early and take a virus test, he added.

Department of Health officials began interviewing employees that same day and advised all personal close contacts to isolate and get tested.

The worker wants to know whether Westside Meat has complied with Health Department protocols.

"They say they did everything right but how can that be? They mentioned nothing about it all week," he said, adding many employees are angry with the company.

"They care more about their product than they do about their workers."

When contacted by AAP, Westside Meat confirmed there had been one COVID-19 case at the plant before declining to comment further.

Worksafe Victoria is making enquiries regarding the outbreak.

Crews at the abattoir process carcasses under one roof and share facilities such as bathrooms.

At least seven Victorian abattoirs have recorded cases of COVID-19.

On Monday the Australian Lamb Company's meatworks in Colac was temporarily shut down after nine staff tested positive.

The site was at the centre of one of regional Victoria's largest outbreaks in 2020.

The state's COVID response commander Jeroen Weimar also confirmed on Monday that health authorities are testing additional safety measures introduced for the meat processing industry.

Another Melbourne meatworks, Cedar Meats, was at the centre of the state's largest outbreak during the first wave of the virus in 2020, with at least 111 people infected.

In that case, staff were allowed to continue working for several days after workers tested positive.

The Brooklyn processing plant was cleared after a WorkSafe Victoria probe into COVID-19 workplace protocols.

Westside Meat is owned by the Failli Group and has been operating from the Bacchus Marsh facility since 1999.

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