6 Mar 2009

Crisis meeting offered to company before layoffs

8:56 am on 6 March 2009

The management of a Wellsford firm, which on Thursday laid off almost two-thirds of its workforce, was not prepared to meet with local authorities to discuss the prospect.

Irwin Industrial Tools, the largest employer in the small community north of Auckland, currently employs 162 people but will eliminate 105 positions by the first week in April.

The company says due to a challenging economy and other business factors, it will be closing down its uncompetitive product lines.

Three weeks ago, Rodney District Council Mayor Penny Webster and the Rodney Economic Development Trust approached Irwin's management offering help.

After consulting their American owners, Irwin's New Zealand management said they did not wish to meet.

Trust chairperson Neil Barr says it was hoped they could offer land or rates assistance to keep the company in Wellsford, but says it is hard to change a fait accompli.

A 50-year-old employee at the Wellsford plant, who does not want to be named, says it is disheartening to lose your job through no fault of your own.

She says at her age it will be difficult to find work again, but there are young families who are losing their jobs who will be even worse off.

Ms Webster says it is always difficult for such a large number of people to lose their jobs in a small rural community.

She says the council is working to see what it can do to help the community.

Ms Webster says there are stories circulating that more layoffs in other communities are possible.