More than 360 people are needed to fill new roles and some are already in training.
More than 360 people are needed to fill new roles and some are already in training. Emma Clarke

365 JOBS: Major Ipswich employer needs workers

ONE of Ipswich's most significant employers is expanding operations and more than 360 workers are needed to fill new roles.

JBS at Dinmore is ramping up to nine shifts a week after cattle stocks improved last year off the back of an 18 month downturn.

Managers need to fill 365 new permanent full-time roles immediately if the plant is able to process at maximum capacity. JBS Northern operations Murray Wilson said 93 roles were in high-paying positions and allowed labouring staff the opportunity for promotion.

"The guys that have stuck by us and worked with us in the last few years in those labouring jobs have the opportunity to go up. Last year when we had the opportunity to increase production, we didn't have the people to actually do it and we were stuck between a rock and a hard place," he said.

Mr Wilson said there was a particular focus on employing local workers and relatives and friends of existing staff. He said more than 160 applications had already come from family and friends of JBS employees and more than 40 employees had already stepped up into skilled roles.

"It's pretty daunting when you walk into the lunch room and there are 750 people you don't know, it's good to have some people coming into the business that know each other. The mateship is going to be so much stronger and we have already seen that happen this year," Mr Wilson said.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union president Keith Haslam said unions had been involved in lengthy discussions with JBS to secure jobs for their members after a 10 shifts per week were reduced to nine and then eight in 2016.

Under the new roster, another shift will be added.

"During the wet period it is hard to get cattle and workers accept that because trains and trucks. Last year people got security and full time work. The cattle started coming towards the end of the year and we were trying to kill more than we had enough workers for," Ms Haslam said.

"They wanted to have a crack at going back up with more staff, so it increased efficiency and secured the workers' future going forward.

"We will still have problems when it's wet but it will secure their futures a bit more and create more jobs for people in Ipswich."

JBS Northern chief operating officer Anthony Pratt said the new work model was aimed at increasing efficiency and improving staff morale.

"Under the eight-shift configuration we had last year, it didn't work for our employees, it didn't work for us. We were losing employees and we were losing money," he said.

Mr Pratt said the company was confident cattle stocks would be able to support the extra shift.

"There is some risk in doing what we are doing in trying to ramp up to nine shifts, because we are putting all these employees on and if we then can't find the cattle, then that's a risk to us but we think we can manage that risk.

We're also casting our net a little bit wider, we are going to get a lot more cattle out of NSW as well as the Queensland cattle."

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New recruits the next generation

IN TRAINING: New recruits Brian Aherne and Ngai Kerr-Bell are some of 365 new workers needed at JBS at Dinmore.
IN TRAINING: New recruits Brian Aherne and Ngai Kerr-Bell are some of 365 new workers needed at JBS at Dinmore. Emma Clarke

THERE'S no escaping the meatworks.

After decades trying their hand at different careers, colleagues Ngai Kerr-Bell and Brian Aherne have returned to their old roles at JBS at Dinmore, lured with the promise of friendly staff, solid hours and a healthy pay packet.

Mr Kerr Bell, 26 from Raceview, first started at the plant in 2011 and after a short stint in construction, he's made the decision to take up a new job at the plant.

"I have come back here because I know this is a job I can do. I have a son and a family and we were struggling but I can rely on this income," he said.

Mr Ker-Bell said the biggest incentives were full time work and friendly and welcoming colleagues.

"We have a lot of opportunities here. You can start with no education or training and they will help you and make sure you're aware of what you're doing. There is the opportunity to do well," he said.

Mr Ahern, 41, said he returned to his old job, which he began in 1991, to provide a secure home from his three children

"They go to school which is part of the reason I want to settle down and not be travelling everywhere. I have just bought a house near Ebenezer so we're ready to settle down and live out my time here," he said.

"I'm happy to come back, there is a lot to be said for a solid job."

Eight decades at meatworks

Murray Wilson and Lee Shepley have worked at JBS Dinmore for 21 years.
Murray Wilson and Lee Shepley have worked at JBS Dinmore for 21 years. Emma Clarke

BETWEEN them, Lee Shepley, Murray Wilson and Keith Haslem have dedicated 84 years to meatworks in Ipswich.

The JBS Dinmore employees aren't on their own, representing a sample of the workforce that choose to start and finish their careers in the same company. Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union site representative Keith Haslam has been at the plant for 42 years and, like his colleagues, worked his way up from labouring staff.

"We have all been through a lot but this company has looked after the workers better than most and they treat them fair and with respect which is why people stay," he said.

"The company allows people to work here until they are ready to retire and people can see that."

Mr Wilson, who works in northern operations, started 21 years ago when he was 15 as a 'meat pusher' and now leads the biggest meatworks in the southern hemisphere.

Dinmore plant manager Lee Shepley has also dedicated 21 years to the company and is responsible for training new workers in the same career progression he has led.

"If we are able to train labourers up to boners, they are going to respect us because we have helped to bring them up," he said.

It's a really good feeling to see fellas who were labouring and then to see them boning.