Thomas Foods International has terminated the short-term contracts of 417 visa workers employed at the Murray Bridge abattoir, now closed for at least a fortnight, following a factory fire.
All full-time staff were told to take a two-week leave of absence as of Monday 8 January too, as the business works out how to move forward.
‘A difficult time’
The fire broke out on Thursday 4 January and is believed to have caused significant damage, although the company has not gained full access to the site yet due to safety concerns. No injuries to staff, emergency services or livestock have been reported.
“Our family company is committed to Murray Bridge and we are taking a long-term and sustainable approach to the recovery and rebuild. As such, we are not in a position to provide any further detail on our employment strategy,” said the company’s CEO Darren Thomas.
“Over the past few days I have spoken with many employees and their families at Murray Bridge and I understand the uncertainty an event such as this causes. I have reassured them that our family company remains fully committed to finding the best possible outcome for our employees. We stand by our staff at this difficult time, providing what assistance and support we can.”
Thomas Foods International is a big player in meat production, providing beef and lamb to major retailers and fast food chains including McDonald’s, Woolworths, Aldi, Tesco, Asda and Costco.
Alongside its Murray Bridge abattoir, which can slaughter 5,000 cattle and 52,000 lambs per week, the business has factories in Lobethal, Tamworth and Wallangarra, all based in Australia.
By throughput, Murray Bridge is far by the company’s biggest slaughterhouse. Thomas said it would require “significant repair and upgrade”, but said the company was committed to “creating an even better meat processing facility in the future”.