Lactalis shuts Rocky’s Pauls factory with 47 redundancies
DESPITE community outrage and political bluster, at 3pm yesterday, the doors of the Rockhampton CBD Pauls Milk Factory were quietly closed for the last time, sending 47 redundant employees towards an uncertain future.
Recognised as the world’s largest dairy company, French company Lactalis made the decision to close their Rockhampton operation after a complete analysis of its Queensland manufacturing division recognised a lack of supply meant they hadn’t operated a full capacity (only three or four days a week) “for a number of years”.
At the time of announcing the closure Lactalis Australia chief executive Ron Walden assured his employees that all support would be made available and they would look for “opportunities where we can redeploy our staff to different Lactalis locations”.
While The Morning Bulletin was unable to find any workers willing to talk about the closure, it understands they had received very generous redundancy packages providing financial breathing room while they attempt to find alternative employment.
Australian Workers’ Union Queensland Branch Secretary Steve Baker said it was a sad day, not only for the Lactalis workforce, but the entire Rockhampton community.
“Lactalis’s call to close up shop is a real kick in the teeth for their workers, many of whom have stuck by the factory for years,” Mr Baker said.
“These workers are upset, they’re angry, and they’re disappointed.
“They’re struggling to understand how a company can cut and run from its workforce just weeks after winning a major government contact.”
He said AWU’s members at Lactalis were highly skilled, hardworking, and didn’t deserve for this to happen.
“We’ve been doing all we can to support our members through this tough time, but it never should have come to this. Our message is clear: we need to do all we can to keep Queensland jobs in Queensland,” he said.
After being approached and asked to reconsider by Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, a frustrated Mr O’Rourke said Lactalis pushed ahead with their decision to close and he was yet to get a response back on his correspondence.
“There has been no response from Lactalis at all which is very disappointing, yet again,” Mr O’Rourke said.
He said the Queensland Government organised a forum on February 17 to do everything they could to help former Lactalis employees transition successfully to other lines of work.
“There was 21 who attended and there was Commonwealth and State Government funded organisations that were there to provide advice and assistance for those displaced workers,” he said.
“If there was anymore assistance that those Pauls employees need, then they can always contact my office.”
Mr O’rourke was heartened to hear from a Lactalis employee that local business people had called into the factory dropping off business cards and offering employment opportunities.
Lactalis were approached for comment.