THE Queensland government will provide up to $1.2 million for use in repatriating and retraining workers from the now-closed Churchill beef abattoir near Ipswich, plus two other nearby meat processing facilities which face closure.
The assistance will be applied to training via the Government’s Jobs and Regional Growth Fund.
The Ipswich region west of Brisbane has been hit hard by recent announcements of the closure last month of the Churchill abattoir, with the loss of 300 jobs, plus the closure early next year of the Baiada Steggles chicken processing plant at nearby Wulkuraka, which will see another 250 processing industry workers put off. The Woolworths BrisMeat centralised packaging facility adjacent to Churchill will also close later next year, creating a further 200 job losses.
The sequence of closure announcements in September represented the loss of around 1000 meat processing jobs from the Ipswich economy, prompting the State Government to establish dialogue with various stakeholders.
During Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s announcement on Friday of the jobs support package, JBS Australia, which is headquartered at nearby Dinmore, announced that it had the capacity to immediately hire more than 200 workers across its Wacol (Primo) and Dinmore (beef processing) facilities.
Ms Palaszczuk said the government would supply assistance to JBS, to absorb the displaced workers into its business.
“JBS suggested they could take on more workers here in Queensland, and came to me with some really good ideas for expansion here locally for their businesses here at Wacol and at Dinmore,” she said.
As of this week, between 30 and 40 job vacancies were available at the Dinmore plant, only 10km from Churchill, and a much larger number at JBS Primo’s large-scale Primo/Hans smallgoods plant at nearby Wacol. Depending on staff turnover and rates of kill, JBS in the coming months may have the capacity to absorb up to 400 workers, the gathering was told. The positions were not specifically reserved for the workers affected by the recent closures, however.
JBS chief executive officer Brent Eastwood said there would always be employment opportunities for skilled meatworkers, keen to work within the JBS business, which employs more than 3000 local people.
He said those in need of upskilling would be given training, which will be funded by the State Government.
JBS’s ability to handle more workers at its nearby Dinmore meat processing facility is hampered by the fact that current weekly kills are at historic lows, with four-day weekly rosters common this year in response to the dramatic fall in cattle numbers after the 2015-16 drought years.
Other former BrisMeats employees may relocate to a new Woolworths/Hilton Foods centralised processing and packaging facility being built at Heathwood, between Ipswich and the Gold Coast, but that factory is not expected to be ready for production until January 2019.