JBS sweats on asbestos report stopping 530 staff working

CYCLONE Marcia hit JBS Australia hard, but as they work to assess the damage they're assuring staff they're doing what they can to look after them.

JBS has 530 staff employed at the local plant, and Chief Operating Officer (North) Anthony Pratt said they have a responsibility to focus on their employees and work through their options.

"We're discussing the option of redeploying people in the short-term to other facilities (on a voluntary basis) so they can maintain an income," he said.

"We need to make sure we keep the communication going, because people also have their own challenges with the cyclone."

At the moment they're still looking at their options, including what government disaster assistance will be available. Mr Pratt says they're preparing a response for the government, and once they receive all assessments from engineers and insurers next week, they'll have a clearer picture of how to move forward.

Until they see those reports, any estimate of how long they'll have to remain closed will just be "a stab in the dark". The Bulletin has been advised it could be up to two months.

Mr Pratt said most of the damage was caused to the roof, which was originally built with asbestos materials.

"That brings a whole level of technical difficulty," he said. "We're looking to get this clean-up expedited, but we also need to work within the OHandS rules and get the technical information from the right people.

"The important thing is the safety of our staff."

To make matters worse, JBS had slaughtered about 700 cattle the day before the cyclone. These were hanging in the chiller before they lost power. They also had at least another 700 head of cattle waiting in the yards to be killed the next day. These have now been transferred to their Dinmore facility.

In Qld, JBS Australia runs processing facilities in Dinmore, Townsville and near Toowoomba.

This week Agricultural Minister Bill Byrne visited the Rockhampton plant to see the damage himself.

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