170 jobs go in General Cable factory closure

General Cable's Main South Road premises will shut in March.

General Cable's Main South Road premises will shut in March.

General Cable has confirmed it will close its Christchurch factory with the loss of 160 jobs and another 10 in Auckland.

The move was signalled weeks ago but the reality still hit hard, E tu union organiser Ross Heslop said.

He said there would be flow-on job losses among businesses especially sole suppliers to General Cable.

General Cable is cutting 160 jobs from its Sockburn plant  in Christchurch. It supplies New Zealand and Australian ...

General Cable is cutting 160 jobs from its Sockburn plant in Christchurch. It supplies New Zealand and Australian residential and industrial markets from the site.

"It extends as far as the cleaners who will have to find work elsewhere.

All jobs proposed to go at Christchurch-based cablemaker
Sistema sold to Sharpie owner US Newell Brands for $660 million

"There have been some discussions with other companies about taking on staff but the numbers are pretty low - twos and threes.

"Manufacturing is stable but struggling to maintain markets. The purchase of the Auckland Sistema​ kitchen plastics business announced this week where the overseas buyer will continue local manufacturing is a rarity.

"We really need policy initiatives to support manufacturing." 

Heslop understood General Cable would complete some projects using imported cable but would no longer supply copper and aluminium cabling for buildings.

For the past couple of years the company has been retrenching in Asia and the Pacific in favour of its plants in North America and Europe, which have also been rationalised.

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"The local managers told me it would have required $9 million further investment to keep the plant going but the overseas managers weren't interested," Heslop said.

General Cable managing director in Christchurch David Peterson who was appointed in March could not be contacted.

His public relations representative Barry Akers said a decision was yet to be made about selling the property at 75 Main South Rd or the plant and equipment.

The company has 40 per cent of the New Zealand cable market and rival Nexans​, which imports most of its product, has a similar share.

Manufacturing at the Christchurch factory will end in March 2017 when the last employees will receive redundancy payments in line with their employment agreements.

The accounts of General Cable's New Zealand operations show an $8.5 million loss on sales of $163m in 2015, following a $17m loss on sales of $185m in 2014.

Until about six years ago General Cable employed approximately 400 people in New Zealand.

New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA) chief executive Dieter Adam said the closure was unfortunate and showed the pressure and uncertainty of manufacturing.

Other supply supply chain businesses would be affected and he hoped for discussion about how to retain manufacturing jobs in the lead up to next year's election.

Adam said the General Cable closure and the sale of Sistema​ Plastics to US owners Newell may lead some people to wonder what's going on.

But manufacturing remained the second largest contributor to gross domestic product with moderate long term growth, and showed less volatility than commodity markets, Adam said.

While there might be some loss of tax revenue under Sistema's foreign ownership, there was new factory investment, a guarantee of continued employment for 700 people in Auckland, and increased marketing opportunities, Adam said.

"Our focus needs to be on building an environment where manufacturing can prosper.

"The availability of suitable skilled staff, keeping up with changes in manufacturing technology, and a less punishing exchange rate, especially with Australia, will be critical," he said.

 - Stuff


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