Norco hires 170 workers at flood-damaged ice factory in South Lismore

One hundred and seventy employees at an ice cream factory in Lismore are out of work today and are unsure whether they will receive severance pay after the company was unable to find enough money to keep them employed.

Norco had used more than $8 million in federal funding to pay its staff since the facility was destroyed by catastrophic flooding seven months ago.

That expired today and Norco said its farmers could not continue to pay their workers’ wages while there was no commercial output from the facility, laying off 170 staff.

Norco estimated the total cost of the flood damage at $141.8 million, and that a bid of $35 million joint federal and state grant falls far short of the estimated $70 million needed to rebuild the plant next to the Wilsons River. .

The dairy cooperative continues to negotiate with both levels of government to accept the grant, asking for an additional $9 million.

The factory staff told the ABC today that they had been left in the dark again as management and the board of directors decided whether to rebuild the factory and if and when they would receive severance payments.

A crowd of workers in hi-vis gather around union secretaries in a factory.
Cory Wright and Justin Smith address Norco employees on their last day.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

Australia’s secretary of state for the manufacturing workers’ union, Cory Wright, said workers would not receive any clarity until after Norco’s board met on Thursday.

“Today would be D-Day… now there’s still a big cloud of uncertainty over the entire workforce here at Norco,” he said.

Mr Wright said he could see the staff were in “pain and stress” and the “lack of uncertainty was clearly exacerbating”.

“With all the pressure they’ve been dealing with since February, we see the mental strain on every single worker in the factory,” he said.

A man in a dark blue polo shirt stands with his hands on his hips in front of a closed gate.
Cory Wright spoke to staff at Norco’s Lismore ice cream factory.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

The union is calling for voluntary redundancy packages to be considered, with the option to return to work at the facility if it is rebuilt and operational again.

Norco has confirmed that 16 maintenance personnel will remain on duty to continue work on the facility.

After meetings with management over the past two days, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union has confidence in the factory’s future for the first time since the floods.

“There is absolutely little evidence in our conversations that they are headed for surgery back at this site,” said department secretary Justin Smith.

“It’s more about the time frames they used to make a decision and ask you for another week. It just frustrates these employees immensely and it filters through the community.”

A man with a gray beard in a black shirt stands in front of a brick factory.
Justin Smith says there are positive signs at Norco.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

Mr Smith said it was time Norco “put some skin in the game” and used his own money to ensure the factory’s future for the local community.

“Regardless of where the government is, they’ve distributed more money to Norco than any other site in the Northern Rivers and those sites are up and running,” he said.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.

Play video.  Duration: 3 minutes 39 seconds

Norco fires 170 workers despite rescue package offer

Leave a Comment