120 Swickers boners to relocate to Ipswich

Fire destroyed the Swickers factory at Kingaroy but 120 boners are set to relocate to Ipswich and start work on Monday in a new facility.
Fire destroyed the Swickers factory at Kingaroy but 120 boners are set to relocate to Ipswich and start work on Monday in a new facility.

QUEENSLANDERS will get their Christmas hams on time and the jobs of 120 boners at Swickers Kingaroy Bacon Factory will be saved thanks to Ipswich coming to the rescue of the pig processing plant.

When fire destroyed the factory on Sunday in Kingaroy there were grave fears for the jobs of the 120 boners after the boning room and chiller burned to the ground.

But on Monday, the 120 employees will be back to work in a processing facility in the Ipswich suburb of Wulkuraka.

The staff will be staying in Ipswich hotels for the initial month and the plan is then for Ipswich City Council to use provisions in the town planning scheme and state planning legislation to allow for a temporary community to be built at Wulkuraka, so that operations can continue in Ipswich for as long as it takes to rebuild the Kingaroy facility.

That is likely to be 18 months at least.

Negotiations last week between Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale and Dr Robert van Barneveld, Group CEO and Managing Director of SunPork Group which owns Swickers , will see the 120 boners back to work in Ipswich.

"We will be starting on Monday and for the first four weeks we have booked one hotel for the morning shift and one hotel for the afternoon shift," Mr van Barneveld said.

"We will be putting on a large coach on Monday morning and putting on a large coach Friday afternoon.

"We will also have two shuttles every day for morning and afternoon shift.

"That is really important because people have commitments back in Kingaroy and we needed to give them flexibility if they need to get back during the week.

"But basically they will live there.

"We are going into a processing facility in Wulkuraka.

"We have a good working relationship with this operator. He processes a lot of pigs through Swickers and has been tremendously supportive.

"That facility was effectively an empty room on Monday this week but it will be fitted out by today. We've had Woolworths, Safe Food and everybody finish their accreditation. It has been an amazing process."

Cr Pisasale said the Ipswich City Council would approve a 28-day temporary use of the land at Wulkuraka for the accommodation while applying for a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) to Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Jacqui Trad to get approval for continued use. She would need to sign off on it. Ipswich City Council utilised a TLPI after the 2011 floods.

JOBS SAVED: Knife hand Jeff Hadley in the boning room at Swickers in 2014. 120 boners jobs will be saved with their relocation to Ipswich on Monday.
JOBS SAVED: Knife hand Jeff Hadley in the boning room at Swickers in 2014. 120 boners jobs will be saved with their relocation to Ipswich on Monday. Helen Spelitis

"The State Government has already rung me and asked me to do what we can to help and we are there to help," Cr Pisasale said.

"This relocation will ensure people across Queensland have their hams for Christmas.

"We are going to make the 120 workers feel welcome and we will treat them like Ipswich residents.

"It will be great for our economy and we can all feel proud that we have saved these jobs this close to Christmas.

"One job represents a whole family.

"We have put a lot of hours in to make this happen and it is happening on Monday. It is great to be able to save their bacon."

Swickers processes up to 22,000 pigs a week and provides 96% of the market in Queensland.

Mr van Barneveld said the last week had seen a remarkable turnaround.

"There were 438 people on Sunday who came to a Town Hall meeting thinking they had no future and no job," he said.

"By Wednesday the following week, with the assistance of Paul and his team, we are thinking of building a community off site and are able to say 'you have a job'.

"By being able to keep them together as a community and minimise the fact they have to move two hours from their homes is absolutely critical.

"So getting this planning through and getting it on that site will be essential.

"Getting 120 workers to relocate to Ipswich...we were a bit tentative to how they would respond. But they have been amazing. They are so excited to be down there and part of it.

"I am very proud of what can be achieved when a lot of people have the same vision and all want to arrive at it at the same time.

"That has been really inspiring. This hasn't happened by accident. It has happened because people have been prepared to think their thinking caps on, get together and recognise the importance of this.

"The Ipswich City Council has been fantastic."

Deputy Mayor Paul Tully said the TLPI was a "very useful provision to enable councils to act quickly in the event of fire, flood or natural disaster to assist the community and local businesses" and was vital to obtain in the Swickers case where time was of the essence.

"It worked very successfully after the 2011 floods and this is only the second time we have been seeking to implement a TLPI," he said.

"It overrides the planning scheme and legalises anything covered by the TLPI that would otherwise have to obtain a normal town planning approval that could take many months.

"It is basically cutting red tape and allowing common sense to prevail."

Topics:  editors picks ipswich jobs kingaroy swickers

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