A McCain Foods worker was burned by hot oil and taken to hospital late last week after New Zealand workers were brought in to fill production roles and failed to properly clean the chip fryer, the union says.
WorkSafe Victoria are currently making inquiries into the incident.
Currently seven McCain New Zealand workers are filling in at the Ballarat plant after local employees launched protected action, McCain said.
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union organiser Angela McCarthy said a carbon build up in the pipe caused it to burst, spraying the worker’s forearms with oil.
He was taken to the emergency department suffering minor burns but was discharged soon after.
“They didn’t clean the fryer properly so when our guys came in last week and a pipe burst and one of our members got sprayed with hot oil on his arm which could easily have been his face,” Ms McCarthy said.
“The people who were running it while our stoppage was taking place clearly weren’t able to run the place.
“They were able to produce very, very little.”
Plant manager Karl Thin denied the staff were unqualified for the roles and an investigation was underway to determine the exact cause of the injury.
“The staff who are at our plant this week from New Zealand are fully qualified for the roles they are fulfilling, because they perform the same roles in our plants in New Zealand.
“Our employees often travel between our plants to share information or help cover outages, so this is not unusual for them.”
Mr Thin said “of course” the action had affected production but workers’ safety remained paramount.
The New Zealand workers, which McCain described as “shop floor operators”, were slammed by the local E tū union, who told Fairfax Media they were “horrified and disgusted” and had “apologised profusely” to their Australian colleagues.
McCain has reached stalemate with the AMWU over the new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which workers will vote on at the end of this month.
McCain has claimed the protracted disagreement could hurt the future of the Ballarat plant, which has one of the highest cost structures in the business.
However AMWU said only one of the 10 open claims was a “cost claim”, in relation to increased sick leave for 12-hour shift workers.