Thomas Foods International workers wait for answers after Murray Bridge fire

Uncertainty remains high for the 1400 employees of Thomas Foods International (TFI) put out of work by Wednesday's fire at the company's Murray Bridge meat works.

The company has pledged to support its workforce, including by providing some work at its Lobethal abattoir.

Employees will also be paid next Thursday as normal.

But beyond that, the future is less clear.

Leading boning room hand Eric Baker started at the meat works in 1993, straight out of high school, and said it was all he had ever known.

He did not like the idea of trying to start a new career in his 40s, but hoped a couple of people might be able to hook him up with some short-term work.

He said the people at the support centre at Murray Bridge Town Hall had been helpful.

"They don't have answers yet, but they're going to help us, they're going to finish the pay week off - that's a start," he said.

"They've come out and said our jobs are secure, they will rebuild."

Tala Davis grew up in Karoonda but lived in Brisbane until seven months ago, when she came back to work at Thomas Foods.

She said the fire had been a little bit heartbreaking.

"Our livelihood has just burnt down to the ground," she said.

"I don't think people understand how heartbreaking it is for us.

"At the moment we don't know what we're going to do.

"They've said they'll support us; we'll just have to wait and see."

She was at work when the fire alarm sounded, and said it was immediately obvious that it was no drill.

"We actually knew something was wrong by the way people were reacting and trying to get out of there ASAP," she said.

Craig Chittleborough came from Mount Gamber to work in a load-out area at TFI three years ago.

He said he was not panicking.

"We're all still employed by TFI until we're notified otherwise," he said.

"It's just a waiting game."

He said sadness was the main emotion among his workmates.

"I hope a lot of us can find employment," he said.

"You've still got a roof over your head, you've still got to pay bills, you've still got to eat.

"Trying to find out where you stand is the biggest thing, but there's no point worrying until you know."

He said a lot of TFI's migrant employees were already looking for alternative work, and wondered if many would leave town, or if the downturn would affect house prices.

  • Counselling and support: 24-hour hotline for TFI employees and community members 1800 302 787, Lifeline 13 11 14, Mensline Australia 1300 789 978.
This story Thomas Foods workers wait for answers first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.

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