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Fire at Poultry Plant Threatens Jobs

by 5m Editor
15 January 2010, at 7:49am

AUSTRALIA - Workers at Ingham's poultry plant in Melbourne fear for their jobs following a major fire earlier this week.

Ingham Chicken has been urged to rebuild its Melbourne plant that was destroyed by fire this week to save the jobs of more than 600 workers, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

Worried process workers met with their union today (15 January) to discuss the impact of Monday's fire that destroyed Victoria's biggest chicken processing plant, supplying nearly one-third of the Victorian market or 120,000 birds daily.

The fire at the plant in Somerville on the Mornington Peninsula has jeopardised the jobs of process, maintenance and service industry workers at the site, plus staff in related industries and poultry farmers in the region, the National Union of Workers (NUW) said.

NUW Victorian secretary, Antony Thow, said: "We want a commitment from the company to rebuild the factory on the site where it currently stands. It is important to protect those jobs in the community around the Mornington Peninsula. The factory was insured ... we think it is a great opportunity to build a world-class environmentally friendly factory."

Ingham Chicken has committed to pay its employees for five weeks work from this week but after that the workers will be unemployed.

No decision on whether or not to rebuild is expected for another month but the union wants that decision fast-tracked.

"The company has now been granted access to the site, and we have started assessing the impact on our operations," Ingham group services director John Hexton said in a statement.

About 200 process workers from the destroyed site will be temporarily employed at other, smaller Ingham plants around the state and at its poultry competitors, Golden Farms and Baiada, for about a month to meet short-term commitments to farmers and customers.

The cause of the fire is being investigated but it is believed to have started in a cardboard storage room on Monday afternoon as Melbourne sweltered in 40-plus degree temperatures.

Mr Thow said he had also contacted Victorian Industry and Trade Minister Martin Pakula seeking support.

Sydney Morning Herald reports a spokesperson for the Victorian government saying it had started talks with Ingham Chicken and the NUW and they would continue in the coming weeks.

The spokesperson said: "The Victorian government is keen to see the company rebuild in Victoria and the jobs stay here."