Dairy company Fonterra plans to close down its factory in the south-west Victorian town of Cororooke within the next year, raising fears for its 130 employees and the community.Fonterra is Cororooke’s largest employer.
The company plans to invest $20million over the next three years to improve its Cobden and Dennington plants.
Fonterra’s managing director Simon Bromell is unsure about the exact number of people who will be made redundant, but says some employees will have the chance to work at its other factories.Â «When opportunities come up at other sites, we’ll be thinking first of our people at Cororooke.»
Mr Bromell says nothing will change for farmers, even when the plant shuts down.Â «Their milk will continue to be collected and processed through Cobden and Dennington, and indeed we’ll be growing our milk volumes in the region through those two sites.»
The union in charge of the site says the closure will be damaging for the entire community.
National Workers Union Victoria branch secretary Tim Kennedy says it’s not easy for workers to get to the other sites.
«The reality is it’s not easy to sell up and move from these country, regional towns and to find work within the Fonterra Group,» he says.
«It’s quite crushing for these small communities, we saw it happen in Rochester for Murray Goulburn earlier in the year and we’ll see it happen here in this community, that these are very important manufacturing jobs in regional Victoria. Victoria’s the heartland for the dairy industry in Australia.»
United Dairy Victoria president Kerry Callow says while job losses and factory closures are a concern, the dairy industry needs to maintain a strong, viable manufacturing sector.
«We compete on the export market largely in Victoria and that’s a tough gig,» she says.Â «Sometimes it is more costly to maintain them and it’s really very sad for that local community, because that factory will have very emotional ties with it, but the manufacturing sector which is under pressure right across the board, not only in dairy, does need to maintain efficiencies if they’re to remain viable.»