Vegetable processing company Simplot Australia has announced it is downsizing operations at its Bathurst plant, with at least 110 full-time jobs to go.
The Bathurst plant and Simplot’s operations at Devonport in Tasmania have been the subject of a productivity review announced earlier in the year.
This morning around 200 workers at Bathurst were told of the company’s decision.
Simplot said in June it was considering closing both sites because of poor performance.
But today managing director Terry O’Brien confirmed that instead the Bathurst facility will now only produce Chiko rolls and frozen and canned corn.
“The decision is to keep that going and obviously to some degree it’s going to be dependent on the take up by the Australian consumers for Australian grown,” Mr O’Brien said.
“If that’s successful we’ll continue to make it here in Bathurst.”
Mr O’Brien says the decision had to be made despite recent long-term supply agreements reached with supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles.
“These offers are welcomed and very much appreciated, but both retailers still require products to be supplied at sustainably competitive prices,” he said.
“Simplot Australia’s parent company, US-based JR Simplot, has committed significant financial investment but it has done so only if the operations can be shown to be viable into the future.
“In the absence of a lower cost structure, neither plant has a strong business case long-term.”
One worker in Bathurst, Laura, has worked at the facility for 17 years and says there were tears in today’s meeting.
She says she is worried about her colleagues but is keeping her own job for now.
“At the moment, but maybe not for long,” she said.
“Some of them will maybe have a hard time, there’s been a few upset people there this morning.
“You’ll be lucky if you get something else. In Bathurst there’s not many places to go to.
“It’s all right, you know. We were prepared. We just have to wait and see how things are going, but things are not looking too good.”
Mr O’Brien says while no jobs are going at Devonport immediately, it also faces an uncertain future.
“For Devonport to remain operational past the three years mark it requires considerable capital investment and labour cost reduction”, he said.