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Community crisis: Tiwai smelter cuts 100, threatens closure

September 5, 2012

Another community in crisis as Tiwai smelter cuts 100, threatens closure

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says the Government must step in to ensure the future of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, which this morning announced plans to cut 100 jobs by November.

The union is warning the jobs cuts are just the tip of the iceberg, as New Zealand Aluminium Smelters continues to threaten to close the smelter unless it can negotiate a better deal with its power supplier, Meridian.

The news comes just a day after 1000 people rallied in the streets of Greymouth calling on the Government to save Spring Creek mine and ensure the future of their town.

EPMU Director of Organising Alan Clarence says the closure of Tiwai Point would devastate the Invercargill economy.

He says the Government needs to sit down with NZAS and Meridian and work out a deal that ensures the future for the smelter and for Invercargill.

“The hundred redundancies announced today are a major blow to Invercargill, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Unless the Government acts now there’s a good chance the whole place will close, and with the smelter goes the Invercargill economy.

“The Government has said it won’t get involved in the future of Tiwai, but frankly that’s not good enough. It’s sitting on its hands over Spring Creek and it’s doing the same here, while communities are being torn apart and our skilled workers and their families are being forced to pack up and leave for Australia.

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“We’re calling on the Government to show an interest in the wellbeing of the community and ensure that NZAS and Meridian come to a fair price that saves these jobs and allows the smelter to remain open.”

Mr Clarence says the Government also needs to take action on the high exchange rate, which NZAS today cited as a factor behind the decision to cut jobs.

“The level of the New Zealand dollar can be the difference between a thriving business that’s employing new staff and a struggling business that’s making redundancies, and it’s crucial if we’re going to stem the flow of job losses and build a modern, high skill manufacturing sector.

“The Government needs to listen to what exporters are saying and take action to bring the New Zealand dollar under control.”

New Zealand Aluminium Smelters is majority owned by Rio Tinto and employs around 900 staff and contractors at the Tiwai Point smelter.

ENDS

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