Thomas Foods fire: Murray Bridge contractors left short of work

Contractor: Aaron Hogg unpacks the last truckload of ice tubs to come from Thomas Foods' fire-damaged meat works. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
Contractor: Aaron Hogg unpacks the last truckload of ice tubs to come from Thomas Foods' fire-damaged meat works. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

While Thomas Foods' employees wait for news about their futures, another group of workers already knows the news is bad.

A number of contractors who would normally supply services to the Murray Bridge meat works have been told their services will not be required until the facility is rebuilt, which could take 12 months or more.

On weekdays, Aaron Hogg is usually kept busy at Murray Bridge Ice Works over a five-hour split shift, producing and delivering ice for TFI's cold rooms.

But he has spent the past week tidying up, sweeping and doing odd jobs while the ice machines sit silently.

"My day started at 4.15am every day," he said.

"I'd load up the tubs from out of the freezers onto the trucks and the first delivery has to be done by 5am, before they start killing.

"I'd do two truckloads, get the bins from the previous day, take them back, clean them, and refill them at the end of the day.

"This time of day is usually pretty busy for us, but not so much any more.

"I've only done five hours' worth of work in the last week."

He counted himself lucky - his boss has promised to keep paying him until the school term starts, when he can fall back on another part-time job as a bus driver.

His wife also has a cleaning business, so his family will not be without an income.

Losing the extra hours at the ice works could jeopardise his bus-driving job as well, he said, if he needed to find something else.

But he acknowledged that the supply and demand for employment in Murray Bridge had already changed in the week since the meat works fire.

"There's over 1000 people in this town now vying for any little job there is," he said.

"We've had three people come into the ice works looking for work, and I'm like 'mate, I'm about to lose my job'.

"It's going to be a tough year, but the upside is it's only going to be one year."

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