29 Jul 2009

Union urges action over growing jobless rate

8:49 pm on 29 July 2009

More than 140 jobs have been axed on Wednesday by three companies in New Zealand, bringing the total number of positions slashed this week to more than 300.

The Council of Trade Unions says hundreds of people are facing redundancy every week and the Government is failing to keep up with the growing rate of jobless and needs to spend more on providing job options.

The job cuts announced on Wednesday were from two companies in Lower Hutt and one from Otago. In the past week, there have also been job losses in Gisborne.

In March, Statistics New Zealand put the current unemployment rate at 5%, or 114,000 people.

But the CTU says the dole queue is increasing by more than 1200 a week, with many more jobless finding they do not qualify for a benefit.

Union president Helen Kelly says the Government has not done enough to ensure that production workers remain employable.

Ms Kelly says the Government talks about the importance of training and job creation.

However, she says it is cutting education options and relying on job creation projects such as the national cycleway, which are too small to make a dent in the problem.

The Labour Party says 40,000 people have been laid off since the Government's Jobs Summit in February.

Finance Minister Bill English says the Government cannot roll back the worst global recession in 60 years, but it has several initiatives under way, including the nine-day fortnight and the cycleway project.

Latest job cuts

In Lower Hutt, laundry powder manufacturer Unilever will make 33 people redundant, while furniture maker Formway will shed 50 staff.

Formway chief executive Alan Buckner says the company, which opened in the 1950s, has decided to outsource its manufacturing and focus on design, sales and marketing.

Formway hopes 15 to 20 people will be offered jobs with the company it is outsourcing to.

In the South Island, 60 workers at a hide processing plant in Otago have been told they no longer have jobs.

The union representing staff at the Graeme Lowe Otago fellmongery in Green Island says workers arrived at the factory on Wednesday to be told in a meeting with management that they would be out of work.

The president of the local branch of the Meatworkers and Related Trades Union, Daryl Carran, says employees were told three weeks ago there would be a major review of the plant, but were still shocked by the closure.

Mr Carran says the fellmongery, which deals with sheep, lamb, goat and calfskins, has suffered financially because more slaughtering facilities are sending hides to China for processing.

He says the union has arranged interviews for workers with Silver Fern Farms, which has a plant in Balclutha.

In the past week, Winstone Pulp International has closed a sawmill in Gisborne which employed 65 people, and fruit and vegetable company Cedenco Foods closed a factory in Gisborne, with the loss of about 120 seasonal jobs.