The Alliance meat company has begun a four-week consultation process with staff at its Mataura plant in Southland on Monday, on its proposal to shut down sheepmeat processing there.
The company is planning to consolidate sheepmeat processing at its Lorneville plant near Invercargill and process only beef at Mataura.
The company says the move has been forced on it by a 20% decline in sheep numbers in the south in the past five years, leaving too much processing capacity for the stock available.
The move will cut about 260 sheepmeat processing jobs at Mataura, but Alliance chief executive Grant Cuff thinks those employees should be able to find work at Lorneville.
He says normal seasonal attrition and reintroduction of an eighth chain at Lorneville should allow all sheepmeat processing staff from Mataura to be offered work at Lorneville.
However, Alliance says there are likely to be redundancies among the 65 management, supervisors, and trades staff at Mataura as fewer will be needed to run a beef-only operation.
Union seeks redunancy payments
The Meatworkers Union will seek redundancy payments workers for workers displaced by the Alliance Group's proposal.
Otago-Southland secretary Gary Davis questions whether it will be practical for workers from Mataura to travel to Lorneville for mostly night shifts and says there is also no guarantee of length of season.
"The reality for those people at Mataura is that they need to be paid redundancy and if there are job opportunities at Lorneville, they can pick them up as per the redundancy agreement."
The union has called for a Government moratorium on new plants to deal with the processing over-capacity in the meat industry.
Industry and farming representatives along with the Primary Industries Minister, have all dismissed that idea.