26 Sep 2014

Sealord workers stunned at cuts

9:50 pm on 26 September 2014

Workers at Sealord's factory in Nelson say they have been blindsided by the news nearly 100 jobs could be axed as part of a restructure of its processing plant.

At a surprise meeting yesterday afternoon, the fishing company told workers it needs to restructure through a reduction in both operations and the number of staff working there.

A Sealord fishing boat at sea.

A Sealord fishing boat at sea. Photo: RNZ / Alison Hossain

Retailers and business owners say the news is a body-blow for Nelson - a city already struggling to cope with so-called sunshine wages.

The 97 jobs likely to go comprise 13 percent of the Sealord workforce in Nelson.

Employee Tony Havey told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme that yesterday's announcement came out of the blue.

"People nearly in tears - every staff member was gobsmacked when it was announced. An absolute surprise, absolute surprise."

Mr Harvey said with the economy as it is at the moment, there are not enough jobs in Nelson for the people being displaced at Port Nelson.

Another worker potentially affected, Victor Norman, said it was a a huge blow for both him and his partner who also works at Sealord. He said they had already survived a restructure and relocation after the company's Dunedin factory closed.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said the news has has hit the community hard.

"We all know that Sealord is part of our community and it'll be tough for the city if there are jobs lost. Most Nelsonians have a family member, a friend or a neighbour who works for Sealord. So the impact of the proposed job losses is being felt.

"These are good, capable, skilled people and I would hope there'll be local re-employment opportunities should the proposal eventuate."

Ms Reese hoped anyone affected would be re-employed within the region.

Strong dollar hurting

Sealord general manager Doug Paulin said the Nelson factory was no longer financially viable, and one of primary reasons was the strength of the New Zealand dollar.

"That inability to lift price in terms of what we are making combined with the lower return we get based on the New Zealand dollar, because 96 percent of what we produce here in Nelson is exported."

Mr Paulin said his thoughts were with the workers and their families as they digest the news, and a consultation process has begun.

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