Woolworths suspends Teys Naracoorte as beef supplier

CM
By Catherine Miller
Updated January 17 2022 - 8:24am, first published 12:30am
Woolworths has temporarily suspended Teys Naracoorte as a supplier as it seeks information into the protocols in place following a COVID-19 outbreak linked to the site.Photo: Shutterstock

Major retailer, Woolworths, has temporarily suspended all beef supply from Teys' Naracoorte abattoir over worker safety concerns following a COVID outbreak linked to the site.

Early last week SA Health's rapid response team tested workers at the SE abattoir with about 140 of them testing positive. Despite this it gave approval for processing to continue.

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In accordance with national cabinet ruling close contacts of COVID positive cases were able to return to work and SA Health also approved a small group of staff who had tested positive but were asymptomatic to continue working in an isolated area away from others to ensure food security and animal welfare.

But later in the week the ACTU raised concerns with Woolworths that Teys workers had been forced by the company to work while COVID positive putting other workers at risk.

It also said positive workers had been identified with yellow hairnets which was offensive.

A portion of Teys' Naracoorte weekly throughput are cattle which have been contracted to Woolworths.

A Woolworths spokesperson said the temporary suspension at SA's only major beef processor would be in place while they "worked with Teys, SA Health and SafeworkSA to understand the protocols currently in place for their team and operations."

"We were not involved in the decision approved by SA Health to introduce exceptional temporary COVID measures at the site last week," she said.

The spokesperson said Woolworths Group's Responsible Sourcing Standards required all suppliers to uphold fair labour conditions and operate in full compliance with the law.

In a statement Teys defended its actions and said the health and safety of its people always comes first.

It said it was disappointing certain interest groups were making misleading and factually incorrect claims.

It went on to say that it worked strictly within the requirements of SA Health, as it does with all state jurisdictions that it operates in.

"Contrary to misleading claims made in the public domain no worker has been, or will be, forced to work if they are unwell," the statement said.

"In fact we are specifically instructing our workers not to present to work if they feel unwell or they do not meet the strict requirements of the relevant state health authorities."

Teys says it has never unlawfully denied anyone access to paid sick leave which they are entitled to take and it proactively took steps to establish access to telehealth appointments for its staff to obtain medical certificates.

There was no processing at the site on Friday but work has resumed there this morning (Monday).

The company went on to say that there would be no team members on site who had tested positive in the past seven days.

Regular undertaking of rapid antigen testing will continue and full PPE is used in the workplace.

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"Teys Australia is immensely proud of the incredible job being done by our dedicated team of critical workers to keep quality food on the table for Australians during an extremely challenging time," the statement said.

Woolworths says the suspension does not apply to any of Teys other abattoirs and says it will contine to work with a number of other suppliers across the country to supply Australian meat to its customers.

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