10 Apr 2015

Job losses hit hard

6:06 pm on 10 April 2015

Workers at Sanford's mussel plant in Christchurch are facing tough choices in the coming weeks following a proposal to make 230 staff redundant.

The company plans to close the processing facility due to a drop in the supply of wild spat or baby mussels, caused, it says, by high sea temperatures.

The Sanford Seafood factory gates

The Sanford Seafood factory gates Photo: RNZ

Carol Scott has worked at the mussel plant for 17 years and is close to retirement. She worries about how she will meet her mortgage payments.

"I have no idea, I don't know where to start. I've been there over 17 years, who's going to employ me?

"You know, I'm a mature woman and there's only a certain amount of jobs around."

Ms Scott said news that the facility could close in as little as two weeks was a bolt from the blue.

"You've got your life planned out and you've got your budget and all of a sudden, hey, no job. I was shocked ... angry, I had a lot going through my head, I didn't know what to do."

It is the third time she has been made redundant, having been let go from two previous jobs as a seamstress after the work was sent overseas.

"But I thought, I'll get into the food industry, because that's an ongoing thing, people have got to eat. And you wouldn't think you'd get made redundant through food."

Sanford chief operating officer Greg Johansson said workers will be offered jobs at the company's other plants elsewhere in the country.

"Obviously we'll work with the local employers as well, so if we do get that decision to shut down, our hope is that in this rock star economy of Christchurch, that everyone will have a job to go to."

Service and Food Workers Union spokesperson Chas Muir said it was ridiculous to expect laid off workers might be able to find jobs as part of the Christchurch rebuild.

"These are process workers processing shellfish," he said. Middle-aged women were unlikely to be shucking shellfish one minute, and the next putting on roofs or installing windows.

A final decision on the number of redundancies is due in two weeks.

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