6 Dec 2010

Meat works staff to be paid until Christmas

9:35 pm on 6 December 2010

The company that owns the fire-damaged Te Aroha meat processing plant says it will pay workers up until Christmas.

The fire on Friday night destroyed production lines at Silver Fern Farm's meat works, one of Te Aroha's major employers.

It started in the slaughter and boning rooms, from an unnoticed spark caused by a contractor's saw.

The company says it will offer 190 of its staff jobs at its Hastings plant while the other 160 will face seasonal lay-off, which it says is part of their industrial contract.

Chief executive Keith Cooper says says it's important to retain the confidence of the workforce.

Mr Cooper says no decision has yet been made on rebuilding the plant but the company wants to have a presence in the region in the future.

He says staff who relocate will be compensated.

The company says it is guaranteeing its suppliers that all stock will be processed at its three other North Island beef plants.

Stock moved

Keith Cooper says the plant processes about 100,000 beef a year and the fire is causing serious disruption to the company's operations.

He says the company is having to send stock to Silver Fern Farms' other North Island beef plants in Dargaville, Hawera and Hastings.

Mr Cooper says the slaughter board and boning room were severely damaged, but much of the rest of the facility was largely unaffected.

But he says there will be no processing at the plant for quite some time, he says, because the core part of the plant will need to be rebuilt.

Mr Cooper says Silver Fern Farms is confident the fire will not hurt the company's profitability or turnover as the site was fully insured.

Chairman Eion Garden says it is determined to retain a presence in the area, but cannot commit to whether it will rebuild the plant.

Mr Garden says the company is in discussions with its insurer.

Workers left a meeting on Monday accepting the company had probably offered more than anyone was expecting.