27 Mar 2009

Fishing industry says it's healthy despite job losses

9:00 am on 27 March 2009

The fishing industry says it is in good shape, despite the loss of 130 processing jobs at Nelson's Sealord operation.

The Deepwater Group, which represents the interests of companies such as Sealord, is among those who are optimistic.

Sealord has decided to transfer 7,000 tonnes of fish processing to freezer trawlers at sea, in a bid to save almost $10 million a year.

The Deepwater Group's chief executive, George Clement, says the job losses at Sealord in Nelson are regrettable, but processing at sea is becoming increasingly common.

He says lower fuel costs and a low dollar have benefited the industry over the past year.

The Mayor of Nelson says it's bad timing for Sealord to cut 130 jobs in the town, considering the country is in recession.

Sealord says the South Island plant is not viable, with land processing costing $9.9 million a year more than doing the work at sea.

The company announced the planned restructure and redundancies three weeks ago and has been consulting with the Service and Food Workers Union over the details.

It initially indicated 160 people would lose their jobs, but says staff numbers have already reduced through what it calls "natural attrition", and 130 land-based jobs will go over the next six months.

Neville Donaldson, of the Service and Food Workers Union, says workers affected are very angry about the decision. "By crikey, there was anger from a large number of workers about the fact that they'd done everything practical to increase productivity to make that site more viable.

"And then for the company to come in and say, 'We're going to take out 130 jobs and we want you now to give up $1.8 million in your earnings' was just too much."

However, Sealord says the decision to shed the jobs will allow it to continue to employ more than 400 processing and salaried staff at its Vickerman Street site.