29 May 2009

Union sceptical of plan to replace sheep processors

5:33 am on 29 May 2009

The Meatworkers' Union will be seeking more information about an automation research project that will reduce the numbers employed on sheep processing chains.

A consortium of nine meat companies is introducing sensing and robotic technology to fully automate the early stages of sheep processing, including removing the pelt and the internal organs.

The companies say it will allow them to take 18 workers per shift off each chain, improve pelt and meat quality, and cut accident and injury costs.

The gains would be worth more than $40 million per year within five years.

Union secretary Dave Eastlake says the union is yet to hear the details from the companies.

However, Mr Eastlake says he is a bit sceptical about the ability to scale down the workforce by such an extent on each chain.