A meatworks in south-east South Australia has bought a motel to combat housing shortages for its staff.

Key points:

  • A South Australian-based meatworks has bought a motel for staff to live in
  • JBS Bordertown says it is part of a long-term plan to retain workers
  • The company will be adding fields for sports and other activities  

JBS is converting a motel in Bordertown to house up to 70 people at maximum capacity. 

Plant manager Trevor Schiller said 29 staff currently lived at the facility.

“The location is perfect, close to the community,” he said. 

“So, settling on that site has been really good.” 

The exterior of a motel. Rose bushes planted behind a black metal fence, the building has a bright green lawn in front

JBS Bordertown is continuing to upgrade the motel and its facilities.(ABC Rural: Megan Hughes)

‘Pretty big challenge’  

Accommodation has been a major issue for the region, according to Tatiara District Council chief executive Anne Champness.

“It’s been a big issue for all of our businesses in the town and not just here but also in Keith and the other communities,” she said. 

Double bed with a dark wooden headboard and matching bedside tables. There are lamps on either one and a small couch next to it

The motel can house up to 70 workers at full capacity.(ABC Rural: Megan Hughes)

Ms Champness said Regional Development Australia assessed the number of jobs available compared to housing and found there were major discrepancies. 

“They found that we had 151 jobs advertised from 122 employers and 164 that were no longer advertised because employers have given up,” she said.

“We had two houses advertised for rent.

“There’s a massive economic loss if we can’t fill those staff shortages.” 

‘Attracting and retaining people’

Mr Schiller said it had been a challenge finding staff. 

“The key for that is attracting people and retaining people,” he said. 

“The investment into this site provides that opportunity.” 

A large sign at the front of an abattoir directing people where to park, where reception is and to report to security.

JBS has struggled to attract staff in Bordertown over the lack of accommodation options.(ABC Rural: Megan Hughes)

Mr Schiller said the purchase of the motel was part of JBS’s long-term investment and they would continue to upgrade the space. 

“The plans here will be an undercover area paved with a barbecue area,” he said. 

“The land we have here we’ll convert that to a place for rugby matches, and for volleyball and for any other sport and activities.

“[It is] very important to make sure that they have activities outside work.” 

A middle-aged man wearing a black woollen vest with JBS embroidered is smiling in front of several yellow brick buildings

Trevor Schiller says the accommodation site will help JBS retain staff.(ABC Rural: Megan Hughes)

Mr Schiller estimated JBS was still at least 50 staff short at its Bordertown plant and has had workers recently join the team from Tonga and Vanuatu. 

As well as providing accommodation, JBS is also working with local organisations to provide pastoral care. 

The Australian Migrant Resource Centre (AMRC) is working with the company and Tatiara District Council to “provide new migrant and refugee settlers who work in JBS with service support that is culturally relevant, welcoming and inclusive”.

“This partnership ensures issues and needs are addressed quickly in the workplace and in everyday life,” the AMRC’s chief executive Eugenia Tsoulis said. 

Posted , updated 

Meatworks staff move into old motel to beat housing shortage
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