Visa workers putting in 18-hour abbatoir shifts

CHINESE meat processing workers working in Australia have told a Senate inquiry of poor conditions and working more than 18-hour days.

The workers appeared in Sydney on Friday at the inquiry into visas and working conditions and exploitation.

One told the committee he had once worked from 5pm on a Saturday until 11am on Sunday in one of his longest shifts.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union northern NSW branch secretary Grant Courtney said many workers in the industry were not Australian.

He said at one abattoir, up to 75% of staff were from overseas on 457 visas or were humanitarian refugees and there were some international students.

But he said other abattoirs had a more local workers, and students were not preferred as they required more training than longer-term workers on other visas.