Home Business Norco: 170 workers out of business due to flood damage in Lismore

Norco: 170 workers out of business due to flood damage in Lismore


Australian manufacturing giant Norco has laid off 170 workers after it was unable to find the money to continue paying them following catastrophic flooding.

Norco, which operates a major ice cream factory in Lismore in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, suffered major damage in floods in the area earlier this year and estimates the disaster has left the company with a $141.8 million bill.

Until Friday, Norco had been paying employees an $8 million state grant, but that money has expired.

The affected workers have not been told whether they will receive severance payments or when they will be able to see the money when it is paid out.

A separate offer of $34.7 million from a joint Federal Government and NSW Government funding package for Northern Rivers businesses affected by the flooding has been made but has yet to be accepted by Norco.

The company told union officials at an emergency meeting Thursday that Norco had asked for an extension to Friday’s deadline to accept the offer and requested an additional $11 million in funding that had previously been allocated to the manufacturer.

Justin Smith of the Australasian Meat Workers Union said in a statement that a firm plan for the company’s future was urgently needed.

“Keeping Norco in Lismore is our priority,” he said. “We hope that the agreement between the government and the company will allow the restoration of the plant to begin.

“If the reconstruction process continues, we will fight for workers to be able to resign voluntarily with the guarantee that their jobs will be there for them when the factory is rebuilt.

“Norco workers and the entire Lismore community have been through so much this year. They need stability and clarity in the future as soon as possible.”

Workers are not expected to know what Norco’s plans are, including whether they will be eligible for severance payments, until the board meets next Thursday.

AMWU state secretary for New South Wales and ACT Cory Wright last week called on the manufacturer to accept the nearly $35 million offer and give workers clarity about their future.

“Now that they have been offered more than $34 million, Norco needs to bring clarity to the future of workers. Workers cannot be left in limbo,” he said.

“The United Unions are committed to helping affected workers find employment opportunities elsewhere if they are unable to work at Norco.

“No one should be made worse off by this process.”

Mr Wright told the ABC on Friday there was a “huge cloud of uncertainty” hanging over the workforce.

“All the pressure they’ve faced since February, we can see the mental strain on every worker in the factory,” he said.

Norco chief executive Michael Hampson suggested last week that the company would welcome workers “as soon as we can complete the Lismore ice cream factory project”.

“In the near term we’re going to have to stop people next Friday, but we’re looking forward to the future, we’re looking forward to getting our ice cream business up and running and in a couple of years, once that settles down, how can we expand it?” , he said.

Last week, Norco suggested 240 jobs were at risk and said the offer from the government “doesn’t do what we need to protect the future of the factory”.

Originally published as Norco lays off 170 workers as dispute over $142 million flood bill continues


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