14 Apr 2016

Tears at carpet firm's job cut news

3:52 pm on 14 April 2016

Workers at Cavalier were in tears at being told yesterday of the carpet maker's plan to cut 65 jobs, a machinist at one of its plants says.

Whanganui Mayor Annette Main

Whanganui mayor Annette Main Photo: RNZ

The company is proposing to close its Christchurch plant and jobs will go at Whanganui.

The woollen yarn spinning operations at Napier and Whanganui will be put on a single site, at Napier, the semi-worsted yarn spinning operation in Whanganui will be scaled down, and the felted yarn operation will be moved to Whanganui.

Tony Mudgway, a machinist and First Union delegate in Whanganui, said there was a lot of emotion when news of the restructuring broke on the factory floor.

"There's a lot there that's looking at the age and saying 'who's going to employ us?'," he said.

"It's very difficult times."

The company has said the consolidation is needed because of a steep fall in demand for woollen carpet over the past decade.

Whanganui mayor Annette Main said the job losses would be a big blow to the town and could have been prevented if the manufacturer had talked to the city council first.

Ms Main told Morning Report she believed the company's reasons for the restructuring - including the size of its plant and transport issues - could be addressed and it was a shame she'd heard of the plan only yesterday.

"I understand that they needed to talk to their workers but we could have had a confidential discussion with them and we may have been able to resolve some of the reasoning around the move to Napier."

Ms Main said she was surprised the company did not talk to the council to see if it could help the carpet maker.

The council would try and talk to Cavalier about possible solutions for retaining jobs in Whanganui, she said.

Cavalier chief executive Paul Alston said it would listen to all views during consultation, but the company had already looked at consolidating its operations in Whanganui and found moving to Napier was the best option.

Mr Alston had been visiting workers in Whanganui today.

He said the company had not wanted details of the proposed restructure leaked to the media and it had commitments to the stock exchange.

Mr Alston said he would be happy to talk the mayor as part of the consultation process but was not optimistic about saving jobs at Whanganui because the plant did not have the scale required.

"We have to transport wool from our wool scour in Napier so it makes more sense to have it based next to our wool scour and also the site's big enough to accommodate our needs whereas Whanganui's not."

Mr Alston said given falling demand for wool carpets, the company has too much capacity. "We've got half-full factories, and we've got significant savings if we consolidate them on one site."

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