Hutton's castoffs find new jobs hard to come by

HARD TIMES: Darryl Anderson has struggled since being made redundant at the end of March.
HARD TIMES: Darryl Anderson has struggled since being made redundant at the end of March.

Darryl Anderson has been to three job interviews in the past month but none of the employers have bothered to get back to him.

Hamilton man Anderson was among 125 workers made redundant when the Hutton's meat-processing plant shut down at the end of March. His struggle to find work was typical, with nearly half his former colleagues still looking for work.

Hamilton businesses have failed the Hutton's workers, said Robert Reid, general secretary of FIRST Union.

"The response of Hamilton has been much worse than Rotorua, that had its own major redundancy when Tachikawa wood mill went into receivership just before Christmas last year," Reid said.

Just 6 of the 80 ex-Tachikawa workers were still out of work, Reid said.

Anderson started off in Hutton's freezer department and worked his way through several roles in his 16 years.

Yesterday morning he was at another interview, this time with a courier company, but he is not confident they will get back to him either.

"I don't think it went too well."

Anderson said none of this was for lack of trying.

He has been to Work and Income, but said the officer was "negative" about the influx of workers coming from the Hutton's factory.

"I never heard from her," he said.

"I didn't ask to be made redundant.

"It was out of my power to do anything about it."

For his 16 years of work, Anderson received a redundancy package of about $25,000. About $11,000 of that went straight to the Inland Revenue Department. His former salary, of about $845 pre-tax per week, has been stripped back to a dole payment of $209 per week from Work and Income.

And due to a tax hiccup, Inland Revenue is currently taking back all of that money as well, forcing Anderson to live on savings that were earmarked for a future house deposit.

"Because I've had a [relationship] split, I've got assets, but I've had to dig into that to pay the rent."

He said he tried to stay positive and had turned to martial arts to keep away from the booze. But he believed not all of his old Hutton's colleagues were in the same mindset.

"You've got a lot of people here and this is all they've done. They've never done anything else."

When the factory shut down, First Union appointed Te Aroha Tihi - a former Hutton's worker - in a temporary role to find employment for nearly 100 of the 125 redundant workers.

Tihi said he did not understand how nobody had employed Anderson, a qualified forklift driver and experienced factory hand.

"He has a lot to offer, really."

Yesterday was the last day of Tihi's contract with the union and now he is heading to Wintec for training but he said the culture of employment in Hamilton meant many of the workers were not able to get jobs.

As of yesterday morning, 41 were employed, six had retired, one had moved to Australia, one had died, and Tihi could not contact about half a dozen. That leaves about 41 still looking for employment.

Tihi said there seemed to be a tendency for Hamilton companies to insist on employing new labourers on temporary contracts or through temp agencies, which some union members refused to do.

"Hamilton's workers are getting the raw end of this deal, with lower wages and reduced job security.  How can workers budget to feed and house their families when they are on near minimum wages and do not know from one week to the other what their hours and income will be?"

Gallagher Group corporate services executive Margaret Comer said the company had taken on some former Hutton's employees on six-month contracts. She said manufacturing employees were hired to fill specific needs, like unusually large orders.

She said the company could not be sure if it would need the workers permanently but if they "turn out to be a good employee, we put them on a fulltime permanent contract" at the end of the six months.

"It would be extremely wrong in my opinion to provide someone with a permanent fulltime contract only for them to be told down the line that there's no more work."

Waikato Times