POULTRY giant Ingham’s will cease production at its Cardiff processing plant in August, costing 199 permanent staff and as many as 160 casual employees their jobs.
Ingham’s told workers of the plant’s closure on Wednesday and, it said, “reassured them that all employee obligations will be met” and that it would help them find “new opportunities both within and outside the company”.
The Newcastle Herald understands the company will aim to close its Cardiff plant on August 19.
Workers outside the plant on Wednesday afternoon spoke of colleagues breaking down and crying at the news.
“Everyone is gutted,” meat cutter Travis Brown said.
“They brought us all together an hour before the shift was about to end and told us the factory was closing. It was a surprise, completely unexpected.”
One man said the worst part of the announcement was that management told workers to go back and finish their shift, while others were angry that the media seemed to know more than them.
After several complaints, and with many workers distraught, Ingham ended the morning shift early.
Another worker said many of his colleagues worried about their prospects of finding other jobs.
“We are broken. There are families that have worked there for generations,” he said.
“They’ve said they will help you but when you’re 40, 50 years old, what can you do?”
Ingham’s decision to cease production in Cardiff follows a review of its national supply chain.
The company has recently invested heavily in its larger interstate processing plants – mainly in South Australia and Queensland – and scaled down the amount of chicken processed in Cardiff.
“Cardiff has been an important part of the Ingham’s business for almost 40 years and we thank our very loyal workforce who have contributed greatly to our business during this time,” Ingham’s chief executive Mick McMahon said.
“We thought long and hard about this decision, recognising the effects on our local workforce and the community. Ultimately, there was no alternative. The plant is simply not large enough and this has been compounded by recent reductions in volumes as capacity switched to larger, more efficient plants elsewhere in the network.”
Mr McMahon said the Cardiff plant was capable of less than 15 per cent of the production of Ingham’s larger plants.
The company’s feed mill in Cardiff is not directly affected by the plant’s closure and will continue to operate as usual.
Lake Macquarie state MP Greg Piper said Ingham’s decision to pull its production from Cardiff was “deeply disappointing”.
“I’m greatly saddened by news that Ingham’s will close its Cardiff processing plant at the end of August,” Mr Piper said.
“It is greatly disappointing that Ingham’s has chosen not to undertake that investment here at Cardiff where it has existed for almost 40 years, and where a skilled workforce already exists. Right now, though, my thoughts are with all of those affected workers and their families.”
The Meat Workers Union called the decision “brutal”, and slammed private equity giant TPG, the owner of Ingham Enterprises.
“This is a disgusting, stone-hearted act by an unspeakably wealthy private equity firm who don’t care one bit for the local families and the local communities that they are destroying,” the union’s Newcastle & Northern NSW secretary Grant Courtney said.
“It is an absolute outrage that international firms are allowed to seize control of profitable Australian-owned businesses, squeeze them for as much money as they can, and then throw them and their workers into the trash.”
The union said its representatives would be onsite on Thursday to speak with members and other employees, and would hold talks with Ingham’s.