THE Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has made all its regional managers redundant in a move to revamp its contact with members.
Four managers based in Warrnambool, Benalla, Mildura and Traralgon received redundancy notices last Thursday, their positions to be replaced by a centralised hub in Bendigo employing four people.
Staff at the new centre will include two engaged in recruitment and two operating a call centre.
Those who have lost their jobs include Peter Walsgott, based in Warrnambool and representing the western region for the past nine years, Dennis Gale in the Sunraysia-Mallee region, Libby Skilbeck in the north-east and Ken Bailey representing the central and Gippsland regions.
They were offered positions at the Bendigo centre but all have declined.
VFF president Peter Tuohey said the move was made because the 30-year-old system of regional managers was no longer working.
“We have to increase our membership if we are to survive,” Mr Tuohey said. “This restructure is aimed at improving services to members and we hope it will lead to an increase in membership.”
Chief executive Graeme Ford, a former regional manager, said the old method of cold-calling on farmers was no longer an efficient means of making contact.
“We’re changing how we operate to ensure we reach more farmers and regional communities across the state,” Mr Ford said. ‘‘It’s a response to changes in farm demographics — fewer, but larger commercial scale properties and a growth in smaller properties where off-farm work is the norm.
“These changes have made cold-calling an inefficient way of making contact.”
Mr Ford said the VFF would be holding more forums and other events across the state to boost its regional presence.
The VFF had recently arrested an annual membership decline of about five per cent, Mr Ford said.
“Numbers are now steady at about 6500.
‘‘We now need to reverse the decline and I believe this new approach with dedicated resources is the best way for the VFF to achieve that.
“An organisation like ours can’t survive without sufficient members to fund its services.
‘‘We also need numbers to make partnerships with commercial companies worthwhile for the companies.”
Mr Ford said income from membership subscriptions made up about 60 per cent of VFF revenue, with the balance coming from partnerships with commercial companies and from tenants at its Farrar House headquarters in Collins Street.