State Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy has called on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to visit Cobram in the wake of workers being stood down for a month at Cobram’s JBS plant.
Up to 300 workers have been affected by the stand-down at the abattoir, expected to run for a minimum of four weeks.
The company issued a notice to workers saying employees on the kill floor and boning room would not be required to work until just after Easter.
The shutdown is understood to have been sparked by livestock supply shortages.
The Courier understands that JBS’s lamb plant in Longford, Tasmania, has also been temporarily closed for two months.
After making the request last week in parliament to Mr Andrews to discuss job stand-downs with the company and workers, Mr McCurdy said he was yet to receive a response from the premier.
He said he’d made the request to allow local people to start planning and preparing in case the stand-down continued, rather than waiting until the situation became dire.
He told parliament last week that JBS was the world’s largest processor of fresh pork and beef and that all 292 employees at the Cobram plant were being stood down for a month due to a shortage of suitable small livestock.
‘‘I am aware that market conditions and the very high price of beef makes business very difficult on the export market, but my concerns are for the workers in our small community,’’ he said.
‘‘The premier needs to establish if these stand-downs are potentially long term, and if so, whether he will give assurances to the staff that he will assist in finding alternative employment if the stand-downs continue past the scheduled mid-April time frame.
‘‘Many of the staff have families and mortgages, and I ask that he gets a full briefing to better understand the way forward for both the company and the workers.’’
Mr McCurdy said Cobram’s local economy would be impacted if the stand-downs continued and workers were laid-off permanently.
‘‘I urge the premier to have a plan in place to support our communities if this becomes a long-term scenario.
‘‘I do urge him to come to Cobram and talk with JBS and the workers and to give them some assurances sooner rather than later.’’
The JBS announcement follows a turbulent year for primary producers in the region, after Murray Goulburn announced farm gate milk pricing drops which affected a number of local dairy farmers.
‘‘Primary producers have been doing it tough across the area,’’ Mr McCurdy said.
‘‘Murray Goulburn and other processors have not served the dairy industry well and it’s going to take a while for it to get back on its feet.’’
Mr McCurdy said it was common for producers to hold on to livestock when prices were high, creating a supply shortage.
He said in a primarily-export based industry, similarly to the dairy industry, the Australian dollar and world prices would also be influencing factors.