Fruit giant SPC has sacked the entire maintenance workforce at its cannery in north Victoria two days after Christmas.
The 73 Shepparton maintenance workers were told on Friday they would be replaced by contract workers before May 2014, the Electrical Trades Union says.
SPC Ardmona issued a statement saying the employees were aware of the critical need for the company to transform its business.
“The majority have responded in practical and financial ways to lift productivity to help secure our long-term in future in the Goulburn Valley,” a company spokesperson said.
“SPC Ardmona has been assessing its work practices for many months to identify significant improvements in productivity.”
The company, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Amatil, is seeking government assistance.
It wants $25 million from the federal government and a matching contribution from the Victorian government.
Electrical Trade Union branch officer Damian King told AAP the union had been in discussion with SPC for months seeking productivity gains as part of an EBA renegotiation.
He said the union had offered a two-year wage freeze in an effort to preserve jobs.
“They’ve basically said times are tough for them,” Mr King told AAP.
He said the union was due to meet with the company early in 2014 and workers had been blindsided by the job cuts.
“In 20 years as a union official I’ve never heard of mass sackings between Christmas and New Year’s,” Mr King said.
The SPC spokesperson said the company had earlier advised the workers their positions were under review.
She said SPC Ardmona expected the external maintenance service provider would set up an office in Shepparton.