INGHAM will lose almost a third of its workers at its Byron Bay chicken processing plant.
The announcement comes less than a year after the giant Ingham group bought out the former Sunnybrand plant with assurances from the-then owners that no jobs would be lost.
The company, one of Byron Bay's biggest employers, announced on Monday that it would lay off 70 to 80 of its 250 employees, including supervisors and managers.
At a meeting at the Ewingsdale Rd plant on Monday afternoon, staff were offered voluntary redundancies.
Ingham blamed compliance with Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) waste water standards as a "major contributing factor" to the job cuts.
A spokeswoman said those constraints were not evident when Ingham took over the plant last April.
"To meet the EPA standards for waste water at its current processing rate would require a significant capital expenditure which is not possible at this time," she said.
"The company has therefore decided that a significant reduction in production is required. This was not an easy decision but is the best option to secure ongoing employment for some employees."
Meat Workers Union Newcastle secretary Grant Courtney described the announcement as a "devastating blow" for the town and is calling on Ingham to reconsider.
He said the job cuts had followed a decision to reduce the weekly chicken kill by 100,000 a week.
The union will ask priority of employment be given to long-term staff.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.