Out sauced: cannery jobs to NZ

Countryman

Flood-affected farmers and a community already hit by factory downsizing face a tough future after Heinz slashed more than 340 jobs as it shifts some production to New Zealand.

Heinz is closing its tomato sauce factory in Girgarre in northern Victoria at the expense of 146 jobs, while 160 beetroot-processing jobs will go at its subsidiary Golden Circle’s Northgate plant in Brisbane.

Another 38 jobs will be cut when meals production ceases at the Heinz factory in Wagga Wagga in NSW, but the plant, which employs 113 people, will remain open to continue producing canned meat.

As well as the 160 jobs at Northgate, the Golden Circle decision leaves nine beetroot growers in the flood-hit Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, without their main source of income.

Peak horticulture organisation Growcom has called the decision a ‘devastating blow’ for growers, especially after the floods earlier this year.

Growcom chief executive Alex Livingstone said it was clearly a business decision which Golden Circle had to make, the same as growers would on their farms, but it would be sad to see the end of beetroot production in Queensland; an industry worth around $10 million a year.

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) is also concerned about the impact the Girgarre closure will have on local farmers.

VFF Horticulture Group president Gaye Tripodi said its number one priority would be to minimise the impact of changes at the Girgarre plant on Victorian tomato growers.

Nathan Jackson, a machine operator at the Girgarre sauce plant, said the 146 workers did not see the announcement coming.

Heinz chief executive Nigel Comer has defended the decision to shift the work to Hastings in New Zealand, saying it would ensure the Australian future of the company which would still employ 1400 people at four major sites.

“It’s just that there’s a duplication of the infrastructure in factories across the region and it’s been a trend of our company over a number of years to actually move production between countries.”

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