SPC hires Shepparton’s stood down workers

By Spencer Fowler Steen

SPC Ardmona has employed workers stood down from industries affected by COVID-19 to cope with record-breaking production at its plant.

The company has hired around 100 workers from across Greater Shepparton from a range of sectors including electrical trades, steel fabrication, laundry services, restaurants, catering and hospitality.

Chief operations officer Allan Findlay said SPC Ardmona was delighted to be employing locals who would otherwise be out of work.

“We have been surprised at how quickly the new workers have picked up the skills needed to help us produce 1.4 million units of food every day to satisfy the demand from consumers, who are stocking up their pantries under the current government restrictions,” he said.

“We've hired people from Bonnett's Staff Electrical Contractors, Gouge Dry Cleaning, stainless steel companies, and cafés and restaurants here.

“We're employing more than usual, producing more and offering jobs to people who have lost their jobs.”

The company said new casual and full-time workers were supplementing the plant’s 1000-strong workforce, with shifts operating around the clock after intensive training under tightly controlled health and safety protocols.

The increased employment comes as SPC Ardmona sources record volumes of fruit and vegetables from suppliers across the Goulburn Valley and other growing areas around Australia, the company said.

Mr Findlay said SPC Ardmona had seen sales in certain categories increase by 200 to 300 per cent on last year.

“We've sold 800 tonnes of baked beans — double last year's production,” he said.

“This time last year, we would only produce baked beans once a month, now we’re producing them 24/7.

“Tomatoes, baked beans and fruit cans have all gone up 200 per cent on last year.”

SPC chairman Hussein Rifai said in a statement he was committed to employing as many Australians as possible in the future, while securing the nation's food security in light of COVID-19.

“Australia produces enough food to feed 75 million people, yet the government is still allowing subsidised imports of dubious origins in many cases to enter the local market, while not supporting local producers with import protection and subsidies like other countries to ensure our long-term food security,” he said.

“We have a great opportunity to lead the world and lift Australia’s food security ranking to number one, but action needs to be taken as the current coronavirus pandemic represents a significant tipping point for the country.”