Kiewa factory given second chance, 70 jobs saved

After months of uncertainty workers at Murray Goulburn’s Kiewa factory were ecstatic on Friday, as the company confirmed the site would continue producing cream cheese. 

Union representative Neil Smith said workers received a call this morning with Murray Goulburn’s operations director informing workers via skype that the site would stay open for the foreseeable future. 

Mr Smith said the call ended months of uncertainty and fighting for the site’s future, and ensured up to 70 jobs would now stay.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said.

“It’s not going anywhere and cream cheese will be made at the site for a long time.

“We’re all so happy that the persistence of the community, the union, members and people like (mayor) Jenny O’Connor who have consistently made the point it makes no sense to close the site.”

In May, Murray Goulburn announced it would be closing its Kiewa factory, with 139 people to lose their jobs.

Since then the union and community have fought for cream cheese production to continue at the site. 

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“The proposed full closure of our Kiewa facility has been postponed due to a range of commercial considerations,” a Murray Goulburn spokesman said.

“Cream cheese production will therefore continue at our Kiewa facility, with current operational requirements maintained for at least the period until completion of the Saputo transaction. 

“After completion, the continued operation of the Kiewa facility will be a matter for Saputo.”

Mr Smith said he was not expecting an announcement and was shocked and delighted to hear the news. 

He said the decision will help sustain the surrounding communities.

“That’s about 70 really good solid jobs we can count on that will remain in the area,” he said. 

“Hopefully if or when Saputo takes over it will just continue to grow.”

Mr Smith said community support was vital in saving the plant, as well as the persistence of officials and workers.

“We’d love to thank everyone for their support, since the closure was announced we’ve not stopped working on it, it has been pressure, pressure, pressure,” he said.

Indigo mayor Jenny O'Connor was notified of the decision in a phone call from Murray Goulburn's general manager of policy industry and government Ben Gursansky at 10.30am.

"I think it's fantastic news, because the new owners are in a very different financial situation than Murray Goulburn was when they made that decision to divest their assets," Cr O'Connor said.

She said Murray Goulburn deserved plaudits for changing plans. 

"Good on them for having the courage to not pursue something they said was non-negotiable," Cr O'Connor said.

"I think that's actually a great move on their part and for the jobs plus the contractors, the local businesses and the families of the men and women employed there and the roll-on effect.”

Cr O'Connor said she would like the new owner to continue production and allow other parties share the space made available through the end of milk processing in July.

The prospective new owner Canadian Lino Saputo is due to meet Murray Goulburn suppliers in the North East on Tuesday.

Cr O'Connor said she had no plans to meet Mr Saputo as part of that visit, but hoped to gather with Saputo representatives on another occasion to discuss the fate of the Kiewa plant.