TWENTY staff will be cut from the payroll at Koroit’s Murray Goulburn factory as part of streamlining by the dairy co-operative, which yesterday announced a 12 per cent reduction of 301 jobs from its total workforce.
Six of the Koroit staff have already accepted redundancies and a further 14 positions will cease by June 30.
It is understood four losses will be in the truck driving division. The cuts represent 15 per cent of the Koroit workforce, bringing total staff at the town’s biggest employer from 130 to 110.
However, the co-operative said factory throughput would not be scaled back and it would continue to process about 900 million litres of milk annually as a key part of the chain.
Employer and union representatives met staff yesterday to discuss how the cuts would be implemented.
The bleak news was announced in a company statement late morning and Moyne mayor Jim Doukas and Warrnambool City mayor Jacinta Ermacora were briefed on the issue.
Both mayors said they realised the job cuts were part of efficiency in tighter economic times, but there would be ripples through the local community and economy.
“Loss of wages will affect the community and I’d hate to see further cuts,” Cr Doukas said.
“I’ve been told by the co-operative that there will be no detrimental impact on farmers and collection of milk.”
Cr Ermacora said counselling and support to help find new jobs would be provided by the co-operative to affected workers.
“Job losses will be devastating for the families affected who need to figure out where their income will come from,” she said.
Transport Workers’ Union assistant state secretary Jim Berger said the announcement came as a shock.
“Although there’s still demand for drivers across the transport industry, many companies are offering lower rates of pay and these factory workers will find it hard to gain the same rates elsewhere,” he said. “Our union has enjoyed a positive relationship with Murray Goulburn and secured excellent rates and conditions.”
Co-operative managing director Gary Helou said the cuts would allow higher farmgate prices to suppliers, increased global competitiveness, manufacturing efficiencies and lower head-office costs.
The cutting comes amid falling world prices, higher global milk supply and the effects of the high Australian dollar.
“These are difficult times, but necessary decisions to ensure Murray Goulburn can remain competitive,” he said.
“The changes will make a significant contribution to our goal of reducing operating costs by $100 million this year.
“We will continue to invest in programs and initiatives to significantly lower our operating costs, improve manufacturing efficiencies and strengthen our dairy foods portfolio.”
South West Coast MP and cabinet minister Denis Napthine said the job losses were unfortunate, but he was confident the efficiency moves would give the co-operative a better long-term future. “While it is disappointing there are good employment and prosperity signs and real opportunities to gain employment elsewhere in the south-west,” he said.
United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Kerry Callow said the retrenchments had been forced on the company to ensure its survival. “This is a tragedy for many country towns already struggling with the uncertainty of other food processing plants’ retrenchments and closures,” he said.