June 30, 2006
Tyre plant closure a wake-up call
The likely closure of the Goodyear tyre factory in Upper Hutt with the loss of nearly 500 jobs is a wake-up call for New Zealand to get its manufacturing strategy in order, says the union that represents manufacturing workers.
“We are running out of time,” said Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little.”
“If we don’t get our act together and come up with a coherent and workable plan for the future of manufacturing in New Zealand we will be faced with more factory closures and no new ones opening to replace those jobs, and then who will feed those families?”
Workers at the Goodyear-owned South Pacific Tyres plant (formerly the Dunlop factory) were told this morning that the American-based company was going into consultation with unions over cutting production from seven days a week to five, with the possibility of a full closure in six to eight months.
The company blames a high exchange rate and increased international competition on the domestic market for the move.
Mr Little said that the situation reflected a lack of investment in the plant by successive owners and a focus on low-margin products.
“We don’t want a repeat of the 1990s, when we lost of tens of thousands of jobs in the car and related manufacturing industries without any strategy to replace those jobs.
“It’s not good enough to simply decide that industries aren’t suitable for New Zealand and pull the plug; we have to put some real effort into deciding what industries are suitable, and manage the transition so that workers and their families are not left on the scrapheap.”
The EPMU represents around 60 workers at the Goodyear factory, including electricians, fitters, engineers, technicians and support staff.
The factory opened in around 1950 to supply tyres to the General Motors, Honda and Ford factories, and has employed thousands of people in that time.
Mr Little said that union was now entering discussions with company managers over today’s announcement. EPMU members have a redundancy agreement in place.