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Work-volunteer balance at Bega
To celebrate National Volunteer Week (13-19 May), CFA is saying “thanks a million” to its volunteers, families and employers for everything they do. This week we will feature a series of profile stories to highlight the great work and diversity of our volunteer members.
Mark Large was heading to work at the Bega processing plant two weeks ago when his pager alerted him to an incident in nearby Numurkah, where a large quantity of tyres at a recycling plant was producing a column of thick, black smoke.
“No dramas” was the response when Mark, a Strathmerton firefighter fresh off the recruit course and one of several CFA volunteers working for Bega, called in to tell his manager he’d be a couple of hours late.
The company is “one hundred per cent supportive” according to Billy Logie, another Bega employee, who drives a forklift in the logistics area. Billy, working an earlier shift was able to leave work early to attend the Numurkah fire.
“I have an agreement with my manager that I can wear a pager at work. If the brigade desperately needed someone they know they can send me a second page and I would head off,” says Billy.
“That’s only happened five, maybe six times – and I couldn’t take off for every call – but it’s let me help out at call-outs such as structure fires where there’s a high potential for loss.
“And if I’m on the way to work and the pager goes off then they won’t mind covering for me to be a little late.
Bega Foods took over the factory site from Kraft just four years ago, and local brigades are delighted that Bega has taken on board a similar philosophy when it comes to community and volunteers.
As well as supporting volunteers by releasing them to attend incidents, the company sponsors ‘local institutions’ such as CFA’s district 22 running competition and provides active member shirts for Strathmerton Rural Fire Brigade.
David McKinnon, General Manager of Human Resources at Bega Cheese, said the company, as a significant regional employer, understood the important role that community and volunteer organisations had to play.
“Our employees participate in many volunteer organisations that enrich life in rural communities and to whom communities turn to in times of drought, fire and flood,” he said.
“We support, where we can, the volunteer organisations that make such a positive contribution, as we are part of those communities.”
Those communities included many hit by severe flooding in 2012. While the town of Strathmerton did not directly feel the brunt of the floodwaters, brigade crews among others immediately answered the call to go to nearby Numurkah where crews were frantically sandbagging and assisting with the flood effort.
“When I headed out to Numurkah on a strike team, it was at very short notice,” said Billy.
“But the response was the same – no worries, just go. That was a whole day off work and it wasn’t taken off my annual leave tally.”
Billy puts down Bega’s understanding to their identity as a smaller Australian company employing predominantly locals.
“If there is a fire, we are the ones who will be protecting people’s lifestyles – even lives – and properties,” he said. “Same goes if it’s 3am and something happens at the Bega factory, we’ll be there. That’s what we do.”
Billy Logie, who has been a CFA member for six years, been holds the position of Secretary with Strathmerton Fire Brigade.
He recently finished work at Bega Cheese in order to start up his own business in his former line of work - electrical trades.
- Story by Sonia Maclean