The meatworks industry in Ipswich is reeling from the impending closure of two major operations in the area, resulting in hundreds of job losses.
Over the next five months, more than 750 workers will go from an abattoir and a chicken processing plant in the region, west of Brisbane.
After 17 years, the Churchill Abattoir’s entire 500-strong workforce will be axed when the facility closes its doors on September 28.
The announcement on Monday afternoon came within hours of massive chicken meat company Baiada Poultry, producers of Steggles, confirming 250 jobs would go with the closure of the company’s processing facility in January next year.
The meat industry union described the dual closures as an “enormous blow” to the Ipswich area.
The domestic-only Churchill Abattoir had dropped back to four days a week in recent times but director Barry Moule said it could not continue without looking to overseas markets.
He said rising cattle prices meant not being able to sell certain cuts of meat at a higher price overseas was a major disadvantage.
“(It’s been) very difficult times,” he said.
“We’re a domestic plant and probably the biggest in Australia and probably a bit of a dinosaur in that sense and our customers need to extract as much revenue out of the animal as possible.”
At Baiada’s Wulkuraka chicken plant, about 100 staff would remain in distribution, managing director Simon Camilleri said, adding that management had tried to avoid the move.
He blamed market conditions, arguing national operations needed to be consolidated, with the Ipswich facility no longer viable.
“We will be working through the process of closure with our employees, unions, growers and other business partners to minimise impacts wherever we can,” Mr Camilleri said, in a statement.
“All employee and contractual obligations will be met and we will work closely with local partners to help staff find new jobs with other employers.”
Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union assistant secretary Ian McLauchlan said the organisation would be doing all it could to find work elsewhere but that might not work for all employees.
“It’s going to be an enormous blow the Ipswich area,” he said.
“It’s going to be an enormous hole in the Ipswich economy.
“It’s going to affect families. It’s not good at all.”
Mr Moule said he was still working to secure an investor to upgrade his abattoir to meet export requirements but could not guarantee the 17-year-old plant would open again.