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Clothing Workers Victim Of Free Trade Policy

Clothing Workers Victim Of Governments' Free Trade Policy

15 May 2001

The axing of over 80 clothing workers' jobs in Christchurch and Porirua is a direct consequence of successive Governments' free trade policies, the Green Party said today.

The Pacific Brands clothing group has announced that it will close down both the former Lane Walker Rudkin Jockey Factory in Christchurch and the Sara Lee Apparel factory in Porirua, and shift hosiery production to Melbourne.

"It makes me angry when staff who are long-serving, dedicated and highly productive lose their jobs because of Government tariff reduction policies," said Green Party co-leader Rod Donald.

"Successive Governments have slashed tariffs on clothing imports in the full knowledge that their actions were destroying the clothing manufacturing sector in New Zealand.

"Despite the Labour-led government freezing tariffs on clothing imports last year, it continues to undermine what is left of the industry by signing up to a free trade agreement with Singapore and is now proposing a similar but much more dangerous agreement with Hong Kong.

"We are meant to have a close economic relationship with Australia, but they froze their tariffs at 25% on clothing compared to 19% in New Zealand.

"With both countries facing a massive increase in sweatshop imports from Asia it was inevitable that higher tariff levels in Australia would keep Australian based manufacturing plants viable for longer than those in New Zealand."

Mr Donald said he took the closure of the Jockey plant quite personally, not only as an avid wearer of Jockey Y fronts, but also because both his mother and father worked for Lane Walker Rudkin Industries before he was born.

"I know how important Mum's second income was for getting my parents on their feet, enabling them to put down a deposit on a section and build their first home. The deliberate destruction of New Zealand's clothing industry is denying today's school leavers the same opportunities my parents had.

"I'd like to offer my encouragement to the redundant clothing workers and urge them to consider setting up their own manufacturing business. They have the skills and experience to make a go of it and I am sure the public would respond to a call to buy New Zealand made.

"I for one would buy their products," he said.

Ends


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