"The PALM workers bring a lot of stability to ACC"

20 February 2024


A testimony to success and collaboration

In the ever-evolving landscape of the Australian meat processing industry, Australian Country Choice (ACC) has found loyal support in its long-term partnership with FIP Group. Spanning two decades, the collaboration has navigated various challenges and emerged a success.

Chief Operations Officer at ACC, Andrew Ross emphasised, “It’s been a major collaborative relationship with FIP Group.” 

Sowing the seeds of success

In the past three years this collaboration has expanded via a pilot program for the Pacific Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme where FIP Group facilitated the arrival workers from the Solomon Islands. 

“We started in 2021 with just 10 workers from the Solomon Islands and from there ensured a seamless flow of labour, even when borders were closed. The resilience and adaptability of the program is significant and duringthe pandemic, we didn't drop one shift, one day of operations right through,” said Andrew. 

Since then, the program has expanded to cultivate a diverse workforce from six different countries including Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji and Timor Leste making a current staff of over 180PALM workers. 

End to end support

FIP Group’s comprehensive approach extends beyond the workplace with support from facilitating housing arrangements to medical and financial advice to integration into local communities. 

“The key differentiator is their 24/7 responsibility outside of work, setting them apart from other providers. They're extremely well structured, from their in-country onboarding to bringing in workers into Australia, setting them up in the local community and supporting integration into their local community outside of their job,” said Andrew.

Stability and productivity gains

The PALM Scheme has been instrumental for ACC’s workforce stability, with direct impact on absenteeism and turnover.

"We've had about a 98 percent retention rate since the introduction of PALM Scheme where previously turnover was about 180 percent," said Andrew. 

As a result, ACC has navigated a period of business transitions achieving a remarkable 28 percent increase in productivity.

“That was on the back of the reliability of the PALM worker scheme. FIP Group been instrumental in helping us throughout changes to the business. While the majority of the industry was reducing productivity, we were able to increase over the same period,” said Andrew.

Safety and compliance excellence

FIP Group’s commitment to safety, combined with industry knowledge, ensures a smooth onboarding process for PALM workers who often arrive with limited industry experience. 

“They’ve helped us elevate our safety culture for the site due to the breadth of industry knowledge within their business. When bringing inexperienced workers into a facility like ours, it’s critical to ensure everyone is trained and working safely,” said Andrew.

Dedicated on site team

FIP Group’s onsite team was of equal importance of ACC. 

“The majority of their team have come from within the industry. They bring a lot of technical insight and customer service support through their understanding of how the operation works. They're able to adapt and help through the induction and onboarding and as workers progress through different levels within our business,” said Andrew.

FIP Group’s site managers are responsible for client account management including pastoral care of workers.

“It’s an extreme strength that they're onsite, they work in the same office, the LHR and training teams work as a collaborative group. They're just part of the ACC team.”

Committed to community immersion

A core component of FIP Group’s model is the commitment to integrating PALM workers into the local community. FIP Group's community of care model plays a vital role in creating a sense of belonging and shared values among workers, underscoring the inclusive ethos of the FIP Group and ACC collaboration.

“Learning about different cultures was a big one for ACC, particularly given we already had about 58 different nationalities, and added another six nationalities to our portfolio. It was important to learn about their religion, culture and what they do outside of work,” said Andrew.

A highlight for Andrew was the lead into key events such as Christmas and Easter where many of the PALM workers were away from their families. “Last year we hosted a musical on site. That was a big highlight, sharing their culture and their values and helping us learn more about them,” said Andrew. 

Andrew says these workers have had, and continue to have, an important impact on the ACC business over since the commencement of the PALM Scheme. ACC and FIP Group's partnershiph as enhanced workforce stability and diversity, overcoming challenges and achieving a significant increase in productivity, a major collaborative success.