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Nestle Tongala to close

By Riverine Herald

Nestlé today announced plans to close its Tongala factory meaning all 106 roles at the factory will be made redundant.

The closure of the factory, which primarily produces tinned milk products, will be staged progressively throughout a period of up to 18 months.

General manager Andrew McIver thanked colleagues for their strong contribution to the company and said the closure was in no way a reflection of their efforts.

“People just don’t buy tinned milk like they used to, and cheaper imports have eroded our business further,” Mr McIver said.

“At the same time, the equipment in this factory is old, and the investment we need to make sure it can operate reliably in the future means that the factory is no longer viable,” he said.

In recent years Nestlé has invested to improve the viability of the factory by adding new product ranges. This has included producing Maggi culinary products since 2010, Nestlé Health Science medical nutrition products from 2012 and Milo Ready to Drink since 2017.

“These ranges have supported the factory, but as milk is bulk of what the factory makes, the newer ranges aren’t enough to maintain manufacturing at the site,” Mr McIver said.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, all production at the factory will progressively move, mostly to Nestlé factories overseas, with final closure anticipated between late 2020 and mid 2021.

“We are sad to be losing committed and talented colleagues and I want to thank each person who has worked at the factory for their hard work,” Mr McIver said.

“Today, our primary focus is on ensuring we do what we can to help each person prepare for their next step,” he said.

As well as redundancy packages, eligible employees will be offered extensive support to find alternative work.

This will include expert outplacement services providing guidance and support on potential next steps, retraining and alternative careers.

Nestlé will also work with other local employers, employment agencies, all levels of government and other organisations to explore alternative opportunities.

Campaspe Shire mayor Adrian Weston said council will play a role in assisting employees to find more work in the area.

"Council is extremely disappointed at today’s announcement recognising the impact on not only the workforce, but their families, friends and wider community," Cr Weston said.

"The Tongala factory has been a major employer in our shire for many years.

"Council staff have had initial discussions with Nestle today and will be seeking to work closely with the company, state government and other related agencies regarding the closure to ensure a coordinated approach to assist the staff involved."

Following the closure, the site will be vacated and sold. Equipment currently at the site is either owned by Nestlé or leased, and as it will be relocated, will not be part of the sale.

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said it was devastating news for the community.

"It will be an extremely difficult time for workers and their families as they face the reality of the next 18 months," he said.

"In a small, close-knit community like Tongala, the loss of so many jobs will have far-reaching consequences including on local sporting clubs, spending in small businesses and enrolments at the local school.

"This comes on top of industry pressures that have forced dairy farmers to leave the land and the socio-economic consequences of water leaving the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.

"The dairy crisis has hit many people in our region hard and the loss of 106 jobs in a town like Tongala will test the resilience of the community."