Lismore Farmer Charlies butchers Daniel Leeson, left, of Casino, Ashley Thompson of Modanville and Rick Armbruster of Corndale are now without work after the company went into administration on Wednesday night.
Lismore Farmer Charlies butchers Daniel Leeson, left, of Casino, Ashley Thompson of Modanville and Rick Armbruster of Corndale are now without work after the company went into administration on Wednesday night. Jacklyn Wagner

Human face of job losses

 

IT WAS the news that brought one of Lismore's well-known locals to tears, although it has emerged that there may still be hope for one of the area's favourite grocery chains.

Daryl Smith has been the manager at Farmer Charlies in Lismore – which yesterday suspended trading across all three stores – for nearly 10 years.

Yesterday his distress welled over at the thought that up to 50 staff would be out of work from today or tomorrow.

“I don't know what to say,” he said.

Mr Smith was sorry he couldn't do more for staff.

On Wednesday night, in a shock move, Farmer Charlies, which was saved from liquidation little more than a year ago when it was bought by Sydney company Barrobay Investments, was put into administration.

Workers at Lismore, Ballina and Casino were told they would lose their jobs unless someone stepped in to buy the company.

Yesterday, Mark Roufeil, an administrator from PPB Advisory, said the Ballina and Evans Head stores would cease trading yesterday and the Lismore store today, but added that there may still be good news for staff.

He said he had been working around the clock to find a new owner and was having some success.

“I have four parties who are genuinely interested in trying to acquire the stores,” he said.

“I expect to receive a written offer today and more on Monday.”

Mr Roufeil admitted the stores were in a “terrible financial situation” although he would not reveal a debt figure.

He hoped he might find a buyer with proven retailing experience who would be interested in re-employing the staff.

“They are very experienced and capable,” he said.

Mr Roufeil added that during what had been a “very stressful time for employees”, the administrators had tried to be “honest” and “supportive” and staff had been supportive in return.

He said he would not know until next week if there was any hope of saving the stores.

Ashley Thomson, who has managed the butchery section at the Lismore store for only two months, said staff had not received any of their holiday pay entitlements and may not do so for months.

Many of the staff had children, he said, and would be on the dole line.

Shop assistant Tanya Parker, a single mother with three children, who has worked at Farmer Charlie's for three years, said: “It's a shame to see it closed. I'm looking for a job as from tomorrow, if anyone can offer me one.”

It is understood that many of the staff suffered a similar trauma when liquidators Deloitte took over the company in 2009.

 

State of play:

Farmer Charlies was put into administration on Wednesday night.

Up to 50 employees will be out of work if a buyer can’t be found.

Administrators PPB Advisory say they have four parties interested in buying the chain of stores.



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