Abattoir jobs cut

BUSINESS and political leaders are calling for action and support as Grafton comes to terms with the impending closure of the abattoir and the loss of 200 jobs.

Including families, the number directly affected by the closure could reach 1000, which is "very significant" according to Grafton Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jeremy Challacombe.

The closure could also be the final straw for many small businesses, already struggling in the current tough economic environment, that rely on spending by abattoir workers, he said.

On Thursday, the Ramsey Group of companies said it would close the South Grafton abattoir on November 14, and transfer the operation to the Northern Co-operative Meat Company at Casino. A Ramsey representative said that "all permanent long-term employees" will be offered employment by the NCMC.

Coming on the back of Telstra's decision to close its Grafton call centre last year, with the loss of more than 100 jobs, it was clear that the Clarence Valley needed to develop a long-term plan of action to develop the local economy, Mr Challacombe said.

"We need to attract people and businesses that are loyal to the area," he said.

Rick Colless, the Nationals' stand-in member for the Clarence electorate, said he had discussions with the abattoir's owner, Stuart Ramsey, yesterday morning. Mr

Ramsey was considering using the abattoir site for new business ventures, Mr Colless said.

Nationals' State Leader and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner was already working on a "co-ordinated response" to the abattoir closure, he said.

The Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services would seek a meeting with the owners of the Ramsey Abattoir next week, a spokesman for Mr Stoner said.

"This meeting will involve discussions about the circumstances of the abattoir's closure and determine whether the NSW Government can assist any businesses and individuals affected by the job losses that may result from the proprietor's decision to relocate to Casino," Mr Stoner said.

Page MP Janelle Saffin said she would meet Federal Employment Minister Kate Ellis next week to see what immediate assistance the Commonwealth could offer.

She also hoped to see Regional Development Minister Simon Crean seeking longer-term solutions.

Australian Meat Industry Employees Union president Grant Courtney said he did not want any government support to go to a failed business.

"The offer of work at Casino is good news, but it can mean two hours of travel each day for workers. It is our priority that the abattoir workers get paid their proper legal entitlements. They shouldn't resign," Mr Courtney said.

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