Workers start cooperative to save Heinz tomato factory

Tomato workers and farmers will start a cooperative in a move to try and stop the closure of Heinz tomato plant at Girgarre in northern Victoria.

The cooperative will be assigned the task of negotiating with Heinz for a fair price and even possible contracts as parts of its plans to take over the plant which Heinz plans to close in January next year.

Approximately 300 workers and farmers meet at a public meeting yesterday to develop a take over plan which will see the factory continue to supply tomato product, rather than importing tomato products back here from New Zealand.

The cooperative observed that such a plan will allow the tomato manufacturers to retain the right to put Produce of Australia and Made in Australia on its cans.

The news follows a report earlier this month by Manufacturers’ monthly that the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is lobbying for improved redundancy entitlements for Heinz workers following news that the food manufacturer will move production to New Zealand.

Heinz was allegedly refusing to pay employees long-service leave unless they have been at the company for over seven years.

More than 300 jobs will be lost at Heinz, as the company consolidates its operations. The food-maker announced last month that 160 workers will lose their jobs at the Golden Circle plant in Northgate, Brisbane; 146 in Girgarre, near Shepparton, North Victoria; and 38 in Wagga Wagga. 

The jobs cuts are part of the worldwide workforce reduction by Heinz in a move that the US based company is calling a “productivity initiative to accelerate future growth”. The initiative will include 1000 job cuts worldwide.

Described as a manufacturing consolidation, the closure of the three Australian facilities, which is expected to take 12-months, will shift production of sauces, beetroot and some ready meals to the company’s plant in Hastings, New Zealand. 

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