Thomas Foods International (TFI) is creating a slew of new positions at its other plants to take up the production slack left by the fire at its Murray Bridge facility, but none of these will be at Wallangarra as confirmed earlier by chief executive officer Darren Thomas.
Mr Thomas said that 340 Murray Bridge employees have now started work at the company’s Lobethal (SA) meat processing facility and another 70 positions are being available there in the short term.
“We are also in the process of creating approximately 150 new positions at our Tamworth facility for our employees, effective immediately,” he said.
“This is in addition to the current recruiting campaign we have in place in Tamworth for local residents seeking to join our company.
“More than 90 staff remain employed at Murray Bridge working in specialist areas within our operations unaffected by the fire.”
Mr Thomas said the company and its people have been truly tested these past weeks but remain a resilient and determined team.
“There are no easy solutions in a difficult situation such as this. To find new positions for the majority of our 900-strong permanent workforce so soon after the fire is testament to the outstanding efforts of everyone involved.
“This shows what can be achieved when industry, government and communities work together for a common goal.”
TFI is now in the initial stages of planning for a ‘bigger, better’ rebuild of the Murray Bridge operations, which could take between 12-24 months.
“In the meantime, production levels at our other processing plants will increase significantly – doubling in Lobethal and by more than 20 per cent in Tamworth – as we continue to manage our customer requirements,” Mr Thomas said.
“We are working closely with local government in Lobethal and Tamworth where we have received a very positive response to the employment opportunities and broader economic benefits in both regions.
"Ever since the outstanding actions of the first staff responders on the night of the fire, our focus has been on our workforce. Thomas Foods International will be offering support to employees in their transition to new positions as well as providing access to services for those who will no longer be with the company.
“We can’t say for certain how many staff will eventually take up new positions with the company but from our discussions with various organisations, we’re confident that there are employment opportunities for workers – whether with us or with other local businesses that have pledged their support to offer jobs.
“Ultimately it’s about maximising the employment opportunities for everyone affected by the Murray Bridge fire and working together as an industry and community at this challenging time.”
More than 80 TFI workers were left without jobs in 2016 when the company closed its Wallangarra facility, which had employed up to 260 workers from the district. Mr Thomas said the closure was due to livestock shortages and difficult global trading conditions.
"In making this decision, we wanted to give our loyal employees some certainty with regards to their employment so they could move on with their lives and either seek alternative positions within our group or pursue other work opportunities elsewhere,” he said at the time.