Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The im­me­di­ate fu­ture of the De­niliquin Rice Mill is again in doubt, with SunRice yes­ter­day an­nounc­ing sig­nif­i­cant cuts to pro­duc­tion.

It is un­clear how many jobs will be lost in De­niliquin, though it will be the vast ma­jor­ity of the 100 job losses ex­pected across the com­pany’s Rive­rina op­er­a­tions.

While mas­sive cuts to pro­duc­tion are pro­posed in De­niliquin, there will only be a mi­nor re­duc­tions at its Lee­ton fa­cil­ity, which will be cut back from seven days a week to five days a week from April.

There are cur­rently 152 peo­ple em­ployed at the Deni mill.

There will be a four phase re­duc­tion in mill op­er­a­tions, start­ing on Jan­uary 2.

From April, eni’s ‘Mill 1’, which fo­cuses on bulk rice, will cease pro­duc­tion and go into main­te­nance and the ‘Mill 2’ struc­ture will be cut back to part-time op­er­a­tion. Mill 2 is for short grain pro­cess­ing for the Ja­pa­nese cui­sine mar­kets.

The ‘Mill 2’ op­er­a­tion will be fur­ther cut to a mere eight hours a day for only five days a week from the mid­dle of next year.

The re­duced size of the rice crop due to zero wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion for lo­cal grow­ers is be­ing blamed for what SunRice calls a ‘milling re­con­fig­u­ra­tion’ and the sub­se­quent loss of jobs.

Although the size of the 2019 rice crop has not been an­nounced, it is ex­pected to be the se­cond small­est in 15 years and also the se­cond small­est since the rice mill opened 40 years ago.

In a state­ment re­leased yes­ter­day SunRice said it would be “re­con­fig­ur­ing its Rive­rina milling, pack­ing and ware­house op­er­a­tions over the com­ing eight months to cater for the sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced Rive­rina rice crop an­tic­i­pated in 2019”.

It said: “SunRice re­mains firmly com­mit­ted to the Rive­rina re­gion and the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to im­ple­ment changes in op­er­a­tions fol­lows an ex­ten­sive re­view process.”

It said changes to the De­niliquin Rice Mill op­er­a­tions would be:

Phase 1: Re­duc­tion of De­niliquin Mill 2 shift struc­ture from 24/7 to 24/5 from Jan­uary 2, 2019

Phase 2: Re­duc­tion of De­niliquin Mill 1 shift struc­ture from 24/5 to 16/5 from Jan­uary 31, 2019

Phase 3: From April 2019, De­niliquin Mill 1 will cease pro­duc­tion and be placed into main­te­nance. De­niliquin Mill 2 shift re­duced from 24/5 to 16/5.

Phase 4: From July/Au­gust, De­niliquin Mill 2 shift struc­ture re­duced from 16/5 to 8/5

The SunRice state­ment said its ‘‘pri­or­ity at this time and through­out the process mov­ing for­ward is the wel­fare of our em­ploy­ees. SunRice is fo­cused on min­imis­ing the num­ber of job losses and is ex­plor­ing all avail­able op­tions with em­ploy­ees and unions to re­tain as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

‘‘This in­cludes op­tions to re­lo­cate em­ploy­ees, job shar­ing and tem­po­rary leave. How­ever, re­gret­tably, the changes will mean a re­duc­tion in em­ployee num­bers across Rive­rina op­er­a­tions, with the com­pany an­tic­i­pat­ing the loss of un­der 100 po­si­tions.’’

CEO Rob Gor­don said: ‘‘The de­ci­sion to re­con­fig­ure the Rive­rina milling op­er­a­tions in 2019 is nec­es­sary to en­sure a com­pet­i­tive and sus­tain­able busi­ness for our em­ploy­ees, grow­ers, share­hold­ers and the com­mu­ni­ties we sup­port. SunRice re­mains firmly com­mit­ted to its Rive­rina op­er­a­tions and will con­tinue to be one of the re­gion’s largest em­ploy­ers.’’

He said em­ploy­ees who lose their job will re­ceive full en­ti­tle­ments and there would be full ac­cess to the Em­ployee As­sis­tance Pro­gram and out­place­ment ser­vices.

The De­niliquin Rice Mill was last closed dur­ing the Mil­len­nium Drought in 2007 and re­opened in 2011 after sig­nif­i­cant rains the pre­vi­ous year.

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