April 28, 2006
140 jobs go as McCains closes Feilding factory
Some 140 people will lose their jobs and many more will see their livelihood seriously affected by the closure of the McCains food processing plant in Feilding.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said that workers at the plant had been told today that it would close for good when the processing season ends in December.
“The decision to close this plant, which is one of the largest employers in Feilding and vital to the area’s economy, is outrageous,” he said.
“When McCains bought the plant from Heinz Wattie in 2001 it promised to spend $9 million upgrading it. It hasn’t spent a cent, and is now saying that the plant is too old to be viable and must close.”
Mr Little said that the company had tried to strip away workers’ redundancy rights during an industrial dispute in 2004.
“Obviously they knew this was coming and wanted to avoid paying redundancy to the workers,” he said.
“While the workers did not give up their redundancy rights, they did make some concessions in return for an assurance about the plant’s future, and they are extremely angry to now be told that the company is going back on its word.”
Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) Regional Secretary Luci Highfield said that the closure of the plant would have a big impact on the Feilding community.
“That plant has been in operation for some 27 years, under the name of Western, John Bull and Heinz Wattie as well as McCains,” she said.
“It supplies chips for fast food chains like McDonalds and Burger King, and many growers in the area supply their entire crop to the plant.”
Mr Little said he understood that chip production would be shifted to the company’s Timaru plant, and specialty products like hash browns would be brought in from Australia.