Tamworth relocation unlikely for Thomas Foods workers in Murray Bridge

Workers congregate outside Thomas Foods' meat works during the fire last Wednesday night. Photo: Kamille Bansil.
Workers congregate outside Thomas Foods' meat works during the fire last Wednesday night. Photo: Kamille Bansil.

Thomas Foods International (TFI) is unlikely to move any of its Murray Bridge staff to its plant in Tamworth, New South Wales, the meat workers’ union says.

But another job offer has emerged for TFI workers willing to consider relocating to that state.

Bindaree Beef, based at Inverell in the Northern Tablelands, told Tamworth’s Northern Daily Leader it was interested in taking on any TFI staff who lost their jobs, and could even help them move.

Grant Courtney, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union’s secretary for Newcastle and northern NSW, said he was not aware of any plans for Murray Bridge staff to be moved, temporarily or otherwise, to Tamworth.

But he said Inverell could be an option.

​“We’ve been having a range of discussions with other employers to provide suitable employment to the unfortunate people who lost jobs from the Murray Bridge operations,” he said.

“The discussions we’ve had with Bindaree are that they’re willing and happy to provide some relocation assistance for those workers to go up there.

“We’re quite happy to be the conduit; we have hundreds of members at the Murray Bridge operation and we’d like to be able to find them gainful employment.”


Bindaree Beef human resources group manager Maureen Rae said the business was indeed standing by for applications from any laid-off workers, and was “looking at packages that would potentially help people with some relocation as well”.

“If we can help these guys relocate – this has obviously been a tragic event for them – we’re here to do what we can,” Ms Rae said.

“For someone who wants to relocate, Inverell is safe and secure for families; it’s a good regional town.”

Ms Rae said Bindaree would be particularly interested in skilled meat workers such as boners, slicers and slaughterpersons – who could be overseas workers on 457 visas – but that semi-skilled workers such as labourers, general hands and knifehands were also sought.

“We would absolutely consider 417s who have worked in the industry and have experience; they’re invaluable,” Ms Rae said.

Ms Rae said Bindaree “(didn’t) have a lot of intelligence at this stage” about any plans for the balance of the TFI workforce in Murray Bridge.

“The feedback we’ve had today (Wednesday) is that the business will provide more details towards the end of this week.”

Opportunities in South Australia

Further to the report in Tuesday’s Standard, Teys Australia chief executive officer Brad Teys told The Naracoorte Herald his company would “stand beside our industry colleagues” in offering employment to displaced employees after the Thomas Foods fire.

“We’ve estimated the number of employees to be 30 at this point,” Mr Teys said.

“We have been advertising for positions and received enquiries from Thomas Foods employees.

“We’re happy to help with relocation, to assist with that sort of thing.

“We’re able to provide temporary accommodation and housing.”

Mr Teys confirmed that the plant would be taking in employees who possessed “the wide gambit of skills required in a meat plant”.

Australian Meat Industry Council executive director Paul Sandercock told the Stock Journal he was not too concerned about the meat industry losing skilled workers, as TFI was working hard to relocate or keep its employees.

As well as Teys, and JBS Australia at Bordertown, he said there could be opportunities at pork processors Big River Pork, Murray Bridge, and Primo, Port Wakefield.

He said the temporary closure of the Murray Bridge meat works would not have a major impact on domestic meat supply and prices, and he did not anticipate much impact at the producer level either.

“There may be some disruption until they get things sorted out but long-term, TFI will still maintain their relationships,” he said.

  • Counselling and support: call 1800 302 787 or visit Murray Bridge Town Hall between 8.30am and 5pm weekdays.

With reporting from Carolyn Millet, Elizabeth Anderson and Amy Maynard.


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