SunRice job cuts begin

By Rodney Woods

Job cuts announced last year by SunRice started becoming reality for many of its workers in late February.

Redundancies that came into force were part of the company’s 100 job losses announced in November.

Job cuts are scheduled to occur throughout early 2020 and are a result of the small harvest.

The 2019 rice crop was the second lowest recorded by the company at 54 000 tonnes.

The cuts will continue over the coming months with what SunRice calls a ‘‘reconfiguration of the Riverina operations’’.

By the end of the 100 announced cuts, the total number of job losses will reach about 230 positions since November 2018.

The job losses are a result of low water availability and what SunRice says are the unintended consequences of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

A report by environmental and agricultural consultancy company RMCG has highlighted the Basin Plan’s impact on the region.

‘‘SunRice commissioned an external report from RMCG to investigate water reform issues,’’ its chief executive officer Rob Gordon said.

‘‘Whilst the water reform process has been immensely complex, this report identifies unintended consequences associated with the rollout of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and with the NSW Government’s water allocation practices.

‘‘The report shows those consequences include over recovery of water, significantly eroding the rights of General Security NSW irrigators who grow rice and other annual crops.

‘‘SunRice is currently engaging both federally and with the NSW Government with the aim of addressing the inequities.’’

While SunRice has been able to keep Deniliquin and Leeton Mills open, the small plantings again for this year’s harvest means production will drop to a one-shift operation at both mills from the first quarter 2020.

The most recent 100 job losses include 80 from manufacturing and support staff and 20 from SunRice’s storage subsidiary, Australian Grain Storage.

‘‘We understand that these changes have been, and continue to be, very unsettling and we remain committed to providing as much notice as possible to our employees throughout the process,” Mr Gordon said.

“We will be doing all we can to support our employees and their families in the months ahead.”

SunRice was unable to say how many redundancies are still to be made, with ongoing consultation with employees still taking place.