May 27, 2002
Workers at the Kinleith pulp and paper mill are preparing to fight the American-owned giant International Paper over plans to get rid of more than half the Tokoroa mill workforce.
The company’s New Zealand subsidiary, Carter Holt Harvey, is expected to today announce that it intends to get rid of more than 400 jobs, despite pleas from the workers.
Their union, the EPMU, has today launched a legal battle to stop the redundancies.
Union national secretary Andrew Little said that the workers had made a raft of concessions in order to try to meet the company’s demands.
“Our members have bent over backwards to try to help the company achieve its stated objective of long-term sustainability,” he said.
“We’ve agreed to workers going on to salaries instead of wages, to working on Christmas Day, to allowing the company to force workers to take holidays when it wants to close the mill, to the introduction of performance reviews, to the loss of company-provided transport – the list goes on and on, and still the company is not happy.
“We can only conclude that it had already decided it was going to get rid of 400 people and the consultation process has been a farce.”
The company announced in March that it was looking at restructuring the workforce at the Tokoroa mill by contracting out maintenance and stores operations and reconfiguring the production process, but that it would work with the workforce to try and find an alternative.
Mr Little said that there were at least two areas of legal concern that the union was taking advice on.
“We know that while CHH has been supposedly consulting with us about ways to save the jobs, it has been negotiating a deal for another company, ABB, to take over plant maintenance,” he said.
“That clearly calls into question the integrity of the consultation process. At the same time as all this has been going on, the company initiated bargaining with us for a collective employment agreement to cover the very people who are about to lose their jobs. Legally, you can’t negotiate and consult at the same time.”