In a letter to the editor in The Daily Examiner on 26th October 2011, a little more of Stuart Ramsey’s business history gets an airing:
Grafton will lose a part of its history
AS A 13-year-old, my father uprooted our family and we moved to Grafton so that he could run and manage the Grafton abattoir under the company name of the Victorian-based Gilbert & Sons. He managed the Grafton Meatworks for the next 25 years, which made fantastic profits and provided lucrative wages for the hard work endured.
It started to go south when Gilbert & Sons' companies were struggling financially with their Victorian plants and unfortunately the Grafton abattoir was under the same umbrella. However, it was still operating at a substantial profit.
Approximately 15 years ago it was dragged under with the other Gilbert & Sons' companies. Around 300 workers were out of jobs and at this stage Stuart Ramsey put up his hand to purchase the abattoir and run it as a going concern.
With huge input from the Meatworkers Union, Harry Woods and Terry Flanagan (local politicians), I accompanied another three workers and we convinced Bob Carr (the then premier) to give Ramsey approximately $500,000 in set-up grants to keep the jobs of the people affected within our community. The whole town, including the council, all offered to help Stuart Ramsey to get the abattoir up and running. All workers took pay cuts and became the lowest paid abattoir workers in Australia.
I don't think much has changed in that regard. I joined the consultative committee when we tried, for a whole year, to negotiate a better agreement, after working on the present one for three years. When negotiations went sour I and the 11 or so other members of the consultative committee were terminated. We took the case to the Federal Court of Australia and after four years we won all and every aspect of the case. To this day, approximately 10 years after my termination, I still have not received my entitlements awarded by the outcome of the court proceedings. I know what it is like to be out of a job and not knowing whether you will receive your entitlements or not and I feel for these workers.
If the doors finally close at the Grafton Meatworks I will probably shed a tear. The tear won't be for the concerns of an upstanding citizen such as Ramsey, but for all those people that such a radical decision is going to affect. It will also be for the fact that Grafton will lose a part of its history as it has been part of our community for such a long time. And the fact that the Grafton abattoir has been a huge part of the McKenzie family.