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Worker housing, environment come into focus as Thomas Foods International rebuild continues
The meat processing company is not ruling anything in or out as it prepares to open its new abattoir near Murray Bridge in early 2023.
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The Murraylands’ biggest employer has not ruled out buying or building houses for its workers as it prepares to restart its operations.
About 350 local and migrant workers will be needed at Thomas Foods International’s new meat works at Pallamana when it opens in January, and as many as 2000 in years to come.
CEO Anthony Stewart said on Monday that the company was “looking at everything” when it came to housing those workers.
“We’re a meat processor and distributor,” he said.
“That’s our bread and butter, that’s our focus.
“But housing is an issue and we’ll continue to work with stakeholders in a positive way to ensure that there is housing stock available for people to live in.”
He declined to go into further detail about options the company was considering.
However, at a public meeting on Monday night, Murray Bridge Mayor Brenton Lewis said that Australian Portable Camps had offered to build temporary accommodation for Thomas Foods’ workers.
The company recently opted to take the same route to housing its own workforce.
Murray Bridge News is seeking comment from APC.
Another option could be having migrant workers billet with local families.
Mr Lewis said members of Murray Bridge’s Filipino community had expressed openness to that idea, particularly if more Filipinos were hired at the meat works.
Meat processing industry launches PR push
Mr Stewart made the remarks about worker housing at the launch of a national meat industry PR campaign with the slogan “more to meat”.
Australian Meat Processor Corporation chief executive Chris Taylor was among the dignitaries who visited Thomas Foods’ construction site for a barbecue, and to spruik the industry’s record of generating jobs, supporting farmers and stimulating the economy.
TFI managing director Darren Thomas said his company’s new facility would be one of the best examples of that.
“Our (workers’) kids go to school in town, they play on the local footy or netball side, and their partners often work in town, too,” he said in a statement.
EPA is alert to potential odour issues
Meanwhile, the Environment Protection Authority is taking a close look at TFI’s plans before granting approval for the new meat works to begin operating.
It will be the authority’s job to make sure that nearby residents aren’t affected by bad smells, wastewater runoff, dust or noise.
The EPA’s Shaun Thomas said he and his colleagues particularly wanted to make sure Murray Bridge would never again experience the odour problems that had been prominent, at times, in the past.
A handful of locals offered their thoughts during a consultation session at the Bridgeport Hotel on Tuesday afternoon.
More information about TFI’s Murray Bridge rebuild: thomasfoods.com/bigger-better-stronger.
More information about the meat processing industry: www.moretomeat.com.au.
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