GLAD TO BE BACK: JBS employees Reginaldo Elias and Lee Dodd are relieved to be back at work this week after a seven-week break following Cyclone Marcia.
GLAD TO BE BACK: JBS employees Reginaldo Elias and Lee Dodd are relieved to be back at work this week after a seven-week break following Cyclone Marcia. Rachael Conaghan Rokrjbs

Jobs saved in meatworks miracle: JBS defies odds to re-open

WHEN Brian Codd first saw the damage that Cyclone Marcia caused to Rockhampton's JBS facility, there was "no way in the world" he expected them to be open seven weeks later.

But less than two months later the processing facility has enjoyed its first week of operation, and is back to full production.

Yesterday Mr Codd, the state disaster recovery co-ordinator for Cyclone Marcia, was part of a meeting at the facility to discuss the re-opening with the JBS management team.

"I've been thoroughly impressed by what JBS has been able to do in just a short amount of time after the devastation they experienced to where they are today, back to full production," he said.

"After I saw the initial damage to this place, particularly when you consider the health and safety aspects of the asbestos damage, no way in the world (did I expect them to open so soon)."

JBS Rockhampton plant manager Bill Sauer said morale was high this week, with everyone relieved to be back at work.

At the moment they're sharing the site with contractors who are still working to finish the extensive repairs needed, which Mr Sauer said could take two to three months.

The main buildings have been repaired but there are still some no-go zones.

Mr Sauer said basically every building had needed a new roof, and some structures had to be refitted to get back up to code.

Livingstone Mayor Bill Ludwig also joined the management meeting.

"This one facility produces $34 million in wages alone," he said.

"The knock-on effects that the closure has had from the primary producers through to the transporters and all the other sub-contractors has been phenomenal.

"I've got to commend JBS in the way they've looked after their staff and the way that they were able to get this plant back up and running so quickly after the initial projections were saying it could be six months."

JBS HR manager Christie Horstman said employees were their first priority.

"It was about hitting the ground running and giving them some confidence that JBS was always going to be here and back up and running as quick as we could," she said. "We needed to keep our employees informed, because what we didn't want to do after the disaster was come back and have no one here to process beef." There were only 27 employees of the 530 staff who found new work and didn't return after the site re-opened.


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