Sheep workers at JBS Longford have had the news they have been expecting for months confirmed: sheep processing has stopped at the abattoir.
This temporary closure affects 86 workers, who had already been suspended for the past nine weeks.
Adam Plancke, of Trevallyn, is one of those 86 who now find themselves unemployed.
Mr Plancke had been employed by JBS at Longford for the past two-and-a-half years processing sheep and mutton, but also helped out in beef processing, packing and the stock room.
The month before the sheep processing was suspended in February was highly stressful, he said.
“Things were so bad they stopped providing basics like hearing protection,” Mr Plancke said.
“A lot of people had thought [what JBS said] didn’t add up. When they were laid off for three months last year there was lots of support. JBS tried to help and Centrelink was there, but now it was just ‘tough luck’,” he said.
Mr Plancke has registered with an employment agency and started applying for jobs, but has not found anything.
“I find myself getting stressed. I’m trying to find work but keep getting knocked back. There’s just not any opportunities out there for me,” he said.
JBS Australia spokesman John Berry said beef processing would still continue at the Longford facility, but sheep and mutton processing has changed from suspended to a “temporary closure”.
“The decision at Longford today to extend the current temporary shut down is based solely on the shortage of lamb and mutton which is being experienced across Australia,” Mr Berry said.
“We’ve got pressure as an industry across the country. There have been nine major closures [of lamb processing facilities] in recent months due to major shortage of supply for processing of lamb and mutton,” he said.
Mr Berry said JBS was focused on supporting the 86 staff by providing access to leave entitlements, financial counselling, an employee assistance program, food bank providers and liaising with Centrelink.
“If people are in financial distress then our team will work with them. There may be provisions to access special entitlements, but this will be discussed on a case by case basis,” he said.
The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union Tasmanian state secretary Troy Baker said company representatives told staff it was “just a continuation” of the suspension on Wednesday.
“[JBS] didn’t give any timelines. They were pretty tight lipped,” Mr Baker said.
Mr Berry will be at JBS Longford on Thursday to announce the company’s plans for sheep processing at the abattoir.