Murray Goulburn sale could rescue jobs at Kiewa dairy, union believes

THE sell-off of Murray Goulburn has given a union leader hope that 70 jobs will be kept at the dairy company’s Kiewa factory.

National Union of Workers North East organiser Neil Smith said the sale to Canadian firm Saputo, unveiled on Friday, could see cream cheese work continuing.

He said the transfer of the production to Cobram had previously been halted because of expense.

“I heard it would cost $40 million to move it, so would they (Saputo) want to spend that amount of money?” Mr Smith said.

He also pointed to benefits in having a fresh supply of milk for the yogurt joint venture with Danone as well as cream cheese.

“To us it doesn’t make economic sense (to shut Kiewa)...the 70 jobs that are still there, that’s a lot of money that gets spent in the local economy, so we’ll keep fighting,” Mr Smith said.

Optimistic: National Union of Workers organiser Neil Smith is hopeful a takeover of Murray Goulburn assets will save jobs at the Kiewa dairy factory.

Optimistic: National Union of Workers organiser Neil Smith is hopeful a takeover of Murray Goulburn assets will save jobs at the Kiewa dairy factory.

Indigo Council mayor Jenny O’Connor is also hopeful a deal with Saputo could be advantageous because it included assets that had been earmarked for closure.

“My hope is by Murray Goulburn getting out of the way, we might get some effective management of dairying in the North East,” Cr O’Connor said.

“Having said that, it’s really sad to see this iconic company fall over.

“The mismanagement by Murray Goulburn was appalling.

“It was pretty obvious Murray Goulburn was in its death throes and all this talk of restructuring was misleading because the supply of milk was going quickly.”

Both Cr O’Connor and Mr Smith hope if Saputo does not maintain jobs at Kiewa, it is open to selling the dairy to a company willing to do so.

“We know there’s people that want to buy the factory and invest,” Mr Smith said.

Jenny O'Connor

Jenny O'Connor

Kyvalley Dairy Group owner Wayne Mulcahy, who is reviving the Kiewa milk brand, anticipates the Saputo deal could fuel farmers wanting to supply him.

“We would be expecting some more phone calls, some more Murray Goulburn suppliers approaching us,” Mr Mulcahy said.

“I think it’s better for us, rather than worse for us, because most people would regard Saputo as another foreign-owned dairy company operating in the industry, whereas Murray Goulburn was an Australian farmer-owned co-operative.

“So I imagine people like us, a local family-owned and operated outfit, we would expect to be seen more favourably.

“I think it would help us within the North East.”

Kyvalley is based at Kyabram in the Goulburn Valley.

The Border Mail