THE phased shutdown of Fonterra’s Cororooke plant near Colac will enter its final stages in the first week of next month when most of the remaining workforce leaves.
A Fonterra spokeswoman said 67 employees will leave the company from October 31-November 8, with eight workers remaining until April while the plant’s ricotta cheese production is switched to the Stanhope plant in northern Victoria.
It also produced cream, the production of which has been transferred to Fonterra’s Cobden factory.
Other blending and packing functions at Coro-rooke have been transferred to other Fonterra plants in Victoria and the company’s third-party manufacturing partners.
The factory employed up to 130 people as recently as last year and the departure of the 67 workers next month has been preceded by many others since the company announced its decision last October to close the ageing facility.
Fonterra said last year it was closing the plant, which has operated for more than 100 years, because it was in need of major upgrades.
The ageing plant still operated on coal briquettes to meet part of its energy needs.
Fonterra Ingredients Australia managing director Simon Bromell said alternative options to keep the site open had been explored but they were not commercially viable.
Fonterra Australia said it was committed to ensuring all Cororooke employees were well supported through to the closure of the site and had expanded on-site outplacement and counselling support.
It was prioritising upcoming vacancies in its network for Cororooke employees.
It was also continuing to work closely with the local Cororooke community on the impact of the plant’s closure.
National Union of Workers regional organiser Darren Stiles said about 11 Fonterra workers at Cororooke had transferred to Fonterra’s Cobden plant and one to the Stanhope plant.
Mr Stiles said he understood more positions were opening at Fonterra’s Cobden plant. About 12 of the Cororooke workers had retired, he said.
Those leaving the company next month would receive redundancy payments, he said.
Mr Stiles said Fonterra had been “very open and honest” with its employees about the shutdown.
The union had worked closely with the company to ensure most of the work performed at Cororooke stayed in Australia and created jobs at other Fonterra Australia plants.
“Some went to New Zealand,” Mr Stiles said.
The New Zealand-based Fonterra group acquired full ownership of the Cororooke plant from Bonlac in 2005.