Tuesday, 04 October 2022 12:55

Flood-hit Aussie co-op shuts plant, sheds staff

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Norco is shutting its ice cream plant that was damaged by floods earlier this year. Norco is shutting its ice cream plant that was damaged by floods earlier this year.

One of Australia's last remaining dairy co-operatives has closed its ice cream factory and sent staff home eight months after devastating floods ripped through its operations.

Norco Co-operative, based at Lismore in north east NSW, suffered $142 million in damages during the floods.

While the company received an Australian government grant and continued paying workers for 30 weeks, it decided to stand them down after the funding expired.

Australian media reports says 170 workers were sent home. A Norco spokesperson told Dairy News that 16 maintenance employees were retained to continue works on the facility.

They said, while the layoffs represent a sad day for Norco and the Lismore community, the co-operative is proud that, with the government's assistance, its entire workforce has remained employed and has been paid for 30 consecutive weeks since the floods occurred.

"This was something they are incredibly grateful for, as it has offered both financial and emotional peace of mind to employees during especially difficult times.

"During this time, Norco staff have made a significant contribution to the Lismore community clean-up and rebuild efforts, with teams dispersed across the ice cream factory, local farms and the wider community.

"Since the floods occurred, Norco has been extremely transparent with its workforce around the uncertain future of the ice cream facility."

The spokesperson says employees were also fully aware that the recent bespoke funding package from the Federal Government was for 10 weeks only, with funding to expire on Friday, September 23.

The government had also made it clear that there will be no further funding packages to support the ongoing employment of the Lismore ice cream factory workforce.

Norco says it remains committed to doing everything within its means to safeguard the future of the ice cream facility, for its 170-strong workforce, 290 farmer members and the Lismore community.

"Should it be rebuilt, Norco looks forward to the day it can welcome back its hardworking and valued workforce."

According to Norco's website it is 100% Australian farmer owned with annual milk production of 226 million litres. Norco's turnover reached A$658m in 2021.

The company's product mix includes fresh and flavoured milk, cheese, butter and ice cream.

The spokesperson says the ice cream facility has been out of commission since the floods occurred.

"This has mant that once the post-flood clean-up efforts at the facility had been completed, there were sadly no operations and therefore no jobs for people to fulfill.

"Norco takes its role as a major employer in region very seriously.

"However, it is also a 100% farmer owned co-operative, with many farmers heavily impacted by the floods.

"Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, the farmers simply cannot continue to pay the wages of employees while there is no commercial output from the facility."

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