‘Confident’ Kiewa factory will continue under new management

Murray Goulburn workers and union officials are confident Saputo will keep the Kiewa plant alive if their takeover is successful. 

Murray Goulburn yesterday announced it would not be closing the plant in June as initially planned, but would keep cream cheese operations on site until the sale to Saputo. 

The decision came after months of uncertainty in which the community rallied behind workers and the Nation Union of Workers to try to save the factory and the 70 cream cheese production jobs. 

Andrew ‘Snags’ Cameron, who has worked for Murray Goulburn for about 30 years, in two stints, said workers were shocked but ecstatic by the unexpected back-flip.

“We didn’t know what we were called in for and plenty were thinking the worst at the time, but we’ve all still got jobs,” he said.

“I’m very happy.”

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

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A spokesman for Murray Goulburn said the proposed closure had been postponed due to “a range of commercial considerations”.

“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,” he said.

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

NUW North East organiser Neil Smith said he was confident the factory would continue beyond Saputo’s take over. 

He said he would be surprised if Murray Goulburn and Saptuo had not had discussions about the site’s future. 

“The CEO is on site next Tuesday and I absolutely think they will continue with it,” he said.

“It’s huge for the region, it’s a great story of a little community fighting.”

Mr Smith credits Murray Goulburn’s change of mind on the pressure applied by the community, and proof there was a buyer who would support the factory.

On Thursday, Saputo chief executive Lino Saputo Jr told The Weekly Times the company trusted the evaluation of Murray Goulburn on the planned closures in Kiewa or Rochester.

“Again, with 1.9 billion litres of milk there isn’t enough milk in the system to support those plants reopening,” he told the newspaper.

“Until such time we come back to a higher level of milk and need incremental capacity, I don’t think the plants will open up.”

Mr Cameron said workers were still adjusting, some disappointed they would not be getting a redundancy but most pleased to have full-time work.

“We’ve got our life back again,” he said.