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Job losses at AgResearch taste of what’s to come?

Embargoed until midnight October 5, 2008
Job losses at AgResearch taste of what’s to come?

The PSA says job cuts at the government-owned science company, AgResearch, are a taste of what’s to come if we go down the road of having tax cuts the country can’t afford.

AgResearch is laying off scientists involved in research that lifts the productivity of our pastoral farming industry, which produces 35% of New Zealand’s exports and is worth more than $10 billion a year.

“New Zealand can not afford to cut the jobs of scientists whose research helps generate more than $10 billion of exports a year,” says Richard Wagstaff, National Secretary of the PSA which has 500 members working at AgResearch.

Richard Wagstaff says AgResearch says it’s “downsizing its scientific staff” and intends to cut its costs by about $5 million in the current financial year.

The crown research institute is seeking to cut scientists from its payroll through voluntary severance. If these don’t produce sufficient savings it will carry out targeted reviews of its scientific groups. AgResearch says it wants to ensure it maintains a sufficient level of profitability.

“The PSA is totally opposed to laying off any scientists at AgResearch,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“That’s because these scientists are highly specialised after completing years of training and development.”

“To lay them off is devastating for the scientists and a waste of talent and investment.”

Richard Wagstaff says cutting the number of scientists might provide a small short-term increase in the profit AgResearch gives to the Government.

“But this will come at a long-term cost to the country by reducing AgResearch’s ability do scientific research that helps generates billions of dollars in exports.”

AgResearch is cutting jobs just days after the first round of tax cuts were introduced on October 1.

“While workers will welcome the tax cuts, it’s important that the real cost of these cuts is known,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“The PSA is asking if cutting public service jobs is the price New Zealand will have to pay for large tax cuts?”

“Does the Government need more profit from AgResearch so it can pay for its tax cuts?”

“And will we see more job cuts like this in the public service and state sector if we have another round of even bigger tax cuts in April next year as National has promised?” asks Richard Wagstaff.

AgResearch scientists have been improving the quality of the grass and clover for the country’s agricultural industry for many years. They are also doing research on sheep and cattle that will enable farmers to breed bigger, healthier and more productive animals.


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