Meatworks takes on refugees

Former Colombian refugees (from left) Maiky Osorio, Brandon Pati?o, M?nica Londono and Joseph Castro with their Blue Sky Meats supervisor Dave Evans.

AMID the new season last year, Blue Sky Meats welcomed former Colombian refugees to its team.

Working with the team at the New Zealand Red Cross Colombian refugee resettlement programme, the new recruits have spent the past few weeks learning the ropes.

Operations manager further processing/HR Brett Jenkins said it was great to further add to the strong sense of multiculturalism at the Morton Mains plant.

“Blue Sky Meats has always been a company that has strong family and community ties. We’ve got different generations of the same family working throughout the company and we try to give back to the community wherever we can.

“These people have escaped some awful conditions and horrific experiences far beyond what any of us here can comprehend and for us to be able to offer them a place where they feel they can belong is a pretty special thing.”

Blue Sky Meats reached out to the Red Cross last year when its recruitment season started, talking about how the two organisations could work together to give former refugees jobs and the processor more sets of hands.

Now, five new team members have joined Blue Sky Meats in the boning room under the care of supervisor Dave Evans.

Many of the refugees said that in Colombia, violence and corruption were part of normal life. Now living in New Zealand, life was more peaceful.

For Monica Londono, one of the most notable differences has been the way employees are treated.

In Colombia, work hours were long and hard, and people weren’t always treated well, she said. “Here, they value the employee and the conditions we work in are good.”

Working in the primary industry was at the top of Joseph Castro’s list. With a bit of experience working with knives, landing a job with Blue Sky Meats was a big step forward in settling into life in New Zealand.

“It’s a job that works really well for me, because I’m able to take my kids to school and spend time with my wife as well.”

The team’s supervisor, Dave Evans, said the group were among the most hardworking individuals he had come across and were always willing to go the extra mile.

Subject to the same stringent standards of work, the new recruits had taken to the job and plant very well, Jenkins said.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to help out when the region welcomes former refugees, and we can offer some of them work and an income to help them build their new lives.

“Language can be a barrier at times, but we make sure they’re all working together on one shift so that they’ve always got someone to chat to. And everyone else seems to be picking up a word here and there in Spanish.”

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