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Upgrade of the McCain Foods Ballarat factory will result in less jobs

McCain Foods - Ballarat (Australia) French Fries factory.

Some staff at the McCain Foods factory in Ballarat, Australia, face an uncertain future.

As part of the AU$57 million regeneration project announced earlier in the year automated machinery will be implemented at the factory in an initiative intended to upgrade the plant’s capacity by 25 per cent. The move will mean the company will have to lay off about 20 of their Ballarat employees.

Karl Thin, McCain Foods plant manager:

“As our $57 million Ballarat Potato Regeneration Project progresses over the next year, we are introducing new capabilities and technologies. These new capabilities will extend across the plant, from the way we unload raw potatoes through to cooking, freezing and packing.”

“Our plants here in Ballarat currently employ more than 400 people. As a result of some of these changes, we will see a reduction in headcount of 20, which we are managing through natural attrition, redeployment, and possibly a small number of voluntary redundancies.”

“Headcount reductions are never ideal. However, our facilities overall here in Wendouree employ more than 600 people, and the project has created more than 100 jobs for the life of the project, as we support local suppliers and contractors.”

“This project also allows us to upskill more than 100 plant employees and secure the future of the plants and employees for the next 15 years in Ballarat.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union organiser Angela McCarthy, who was at the Wednesday meeting which addressed the coming changes said it looked as though there would need to be three redundancies per team at the plant. Speaking with workers at the meeting, she said she suggested that they get a union representative involved in any consultations about the redundancies.

Angela McCarthy, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union organiser:

“We explained how the redundancy process works. It will be a process of natural attrition first. There is a fair way to go before compulsory redundancies.”

Any staff who leave will not be replaced, Ms McCarthy said and voluntary redundancies from the french fry plant and then from all sites would be first. If these losses were still insufficient then compulsory redundancies would come into play.

Angela McCarthy:

“When installing automation, it either does or does not go to plan.”

“I’m yet to see a roll out of automation that happens in the time the company specifies.”