2 Apr 2013

EPMU says smelter jobs worth fighting for

9:43 pm on 2 April 2013

Workers at the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter are stunned the Government has walked away from negotiations over power prices.

But a spokesperson for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, Ged O'Connell, says the 700 jobs and almost 2000 indirect jobs at the smelter are worth fighting for and the Government could have offered more.

He told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme three levers affect the profitability of Tiwai Point - aluminium prices, power prices and the exchange rate "so the Government can do two out of three if it has a willingness to do so".

Mr O'Connell says the Government has stayed away from the exchange rate, despite it being reasonably common practice to intervene in it internationally.

Council to hold emergency meeting

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme it was difficult to know what was going on behind the scenes but a factor in the breakdown of the talks could be the question of a potential buyer for the smelter.

Mr Shadbolt says Invercargill City Council would hold an emergency meeting to see whether there is anything it can do to influence the outcome of the talks.

"Rio Tinto's profits I think are over $10 billion - it's a hugely successful company - and maybe we're just such a small player that it's very hard even for a government to have very much influence on the outcome."