Family’s Simplot history in ruin

Brian Paynter alongside John Nooy, whose family have a long-standing history at the Simplot factory. 184564_01

By Rowan Forster

 A family with a historic link to Pakenham’s Simplot factory has been left reeling over this week’s announcement of the plant’s proposed closure.

Across the past four decades, six members of the Nooy family have been employed by the manufacturing giant.

John and his wife amassed a combined 48 years of experience at the Bald Hill Road factory alone, hoping their children would follow in their footsteps and continue the long-standing tradition.

Those hopes were seemingly dashed on Wednesday 22 August, when the company indicated it would likely withdraw from the frozen meals industry – closing the Pakenham facility and shedding 154 workers.

Mr Nooy described the revelation as “extremely devastating.”

“It’s been a big part of our lives and I will be so so, so sad to see it go,” he said.

“Our kids had the possibility of working there and now that’s not going to happen.

“It has run in the family and devastated us.

“Working there was always a secure job and a reliable, good place to work but in recent years the atmosphere has changed.”

He feared the flow-on effect would wreak havoc on Pakenham’s economy and the wellbeing of other businesses.

“The workers spend a lot of money at nearby cafés and shops; and having all of those employees out of work will leave a mark,” Mr Nooy added.

The proposed closure of the Pakenham plant followed an extensive review by company executives and is set to occur when several long-term manufacturing contracts end in November 2019.

Voluntary redundancies were offered this week to 28 staff, who will finish up on 31 August.

It is believed the company is eliminating the pizza line in the first step of the cost-saving measures.

Bass MP Brian Paynter said it was extremely sad news, stressing that today’s political climate has made it difficult for manufacturing businesses to remain viable.

“When government makes business difficult then the owners are forced to make difficult decisions,” he said.

“Unfortunately in this case its jobs in Pakenham that are lost

“Nestle played a large part of the rich history of Pakenham.

“There will be a lot of unhappy locals as a result of this decision.”

The site was formerly owned and occupied by Nestle, which opened early in the 1960s.

In 2009, the company bowed out of the facility, selling to the American-owned Simplot.

Since 1995, Simplot has acquired some of Australia’s best-known food brand businesses including Edgell, Chiko, Birds Eye, Harvest, Plumrose, and Leggos.