The Tasmanian Greens have launched a ‘Cooperative Tasmania’ (pdf) initiative and have a proposal for the McCain vegetable processing plant there due to close November 2010.
Putting the business into the hands of the community rather than simply bailing out the company, makes a lot of sense, says Alan Greig from the Mercury Centre.
Australian Food News reports McCain Foods saying that while their Smithton potato processing plant will remain open, the vegetable processing plant in the same area will close when they move their operation to NZ.
This will make 110 workers redundant and leave 100 growers looking for new markets, and follows National Foods recent announcement that they will close their Berri juice plant in Riverland, Victoria.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) CEO Chris Oldfield is ‘speechless’ that the company with such strong ties to Tasmania is doing this and, he says, hundreds of families will be affected.
AusVeg Chief Executive Richard Mulcahy says:
“Growers are being squeezed to the brink of collapse by the flood of imported products…
Australian processing companies are continuing to move towards packaging rather than growing produce. If this process continues Australian consumers will eventually be unable to buy Australian grown produce in supermarkets.”
Employees are hopeful that a co-operative could be created to ensure jobs are not lost.
One of the workers affected said employees would be supportive of a community-run plant:
“It’d be nice to think the Government might think of an option along those lines that might help us workers to stay here.”
The Greens’ ‘Cooperative Tasmania’ aims to provide practical assistance to local communities wanting to establish a cooperative, including provisions for the government to intervene to prevent asset-stripping.
Premier David Bartlett says he will consider a co-operative, with a government taskforce due to release a report on job ideas for the area within the next few weeks.
Greens Leader Nick McKim says cooperatives have the potential to empower regional communities, by allowing producers, workers and local businesses take back control and responsibility for their employment and future.
Nick supports greater recognition of the role cooperatives can play in securing local economies and regional communities, and has supported a cooperative model to be developed for the King Island abattoir following JBS Swift’s threat to leave. He says:
“Cooperatives can be very successful, particularly in the agricultural sector, by giving local communities more power over their job security and economic future…
The Greens’ Cooperative Tasmania election commitment seeks to shift the government’s focus to supporting producers and communities, rather than companies simply being offered taxpayer funded bailouts as a knee-jerk reaction..
This policy will put the onus onto the government of the day to work with local communities to investigate the viability of a co-op alternative as an initial response to any company quitting Tasmania.
Mr Bartlett should not be playing politics here. We all should be working together to try to deliver solutions.”
This unit would:
Interesting to see what happens…