Waikato food manufacturing workers shocked at today’s announcement
The proposed closure of a Waikato food manufacturing facility has come as a shock and a surprise to workers and is being driven from Australia, the workers’ union says.
Workers at Goodman Fielder’s Frankton Meats plant were told at 7am this morning that the proposed sale of the meats section to Hellers would result in the closure of the Frankton facility.
The sale of the meats business was expected but workers had been lead to believe the Frankton site would remain in operation, FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid said.
“Workers knew at the end of last year that the final processes were in place for the sale of the meats business but everyone had been led to believe it was being sold to a new owner as a going concern,” he said.
“People left for their Christmas holidays thinking that they were coming back to their jobs. In less than two weeks this has changed dramatically, with the news that the business has been sold to Hellers, but that Hellers are only buying the brands and will be not be operating out of Frankton.”
Today’s announcement comes after a review of Goodman Fielder in 2011 and a new strategy launched in November 2011 which has seen Goodman Fielder significantly reduce the areas of food sector they are in.
“Workers understood that the bean counters in Sydney had determined that Goodman Fielder would exit from meat and small goods in New Zealand.”
“Today’s news follows the closure of Goodman Fielder’s Longburn plant in Manawatu, and the workers at the Frankton plant have been consistently told that Goodman Fielder were going to do their best to sell the business as a going concern and keep these jobs in the Waikato.”
“Workers’ expectations that Hellers would play the role of the White Knight and keep them in jobs have been dashed, and they feel considerably let down.”
Robert Reid said that Goodman Fielder has indicated there are 40 jobs nationally, largely in bread manufacturing, that could be available, but he said these jobs were not in Hamilton and are a new skill set. Similarly new owners Hellers have indicated that 50 jobs in Christchurch may be available also.
“We will be encouraging workers to consider any jobs that are available but we don’t expect a huge pick up of workers wanting to leave the Waikato to these jobs, especially given the high rental and other cost of living pressures in Christchurch right now.
The union will be talking to both Goodman Fielder and Hellers over the next few days as part of the formal consultation requirements, Robert Reid said.
“For us that needs to be meaningful consultation and we will want to see strong justification as to why a perfectly good small goods factory has to close with a loss of 125 jobs in the Waikato.”
FIRST Union members are covered by a collective agreement with redundancy provisions.