24 Sep 2011

Closure of Christchurch meat plant first of many - union

9:59 pm on 24 September 2011

The Meatworkers Union says the pending closure of a Christchurch meatworks that employs 250 people does not bode well for the future of other meat plants.

Alliance Group has started a consultation process with staff and unions on a proposal to close its Sockburn Plant at the end of the 2012 processing season. The Sockburn factory employs 250 people.

A spokesperson for the Meatworkers Union, Dave Eastlake, says he expects other plants will also be forced to shut as it is a tough time for the meat industry.

"There's certainly a lot of meat plants around that are under-utilised and workers that are getting in some areas very low annual earnings because they have very little opportunity to work, so sooner or later there's going to be a D-day."

Federated Farmers says the closure is probably due to over-capacity in the meat industry.

The organisation's chairperson for meat and fibre, Jeanette Maxwell, says the rise of the dairy industry has led to less demand in the meat sector and as Alliance merges its processing plants, older factories like the one at Sockburn are often too costly to upgrade.

Alliance Group chief executive Grant Cuff says shutting the Sockburn plant will increase the company's overall processing capacity and make it more profitable.

Mr Cuff says there is no connection between the Christchurch earthquakes and the plan to close the plant.