Tait staff may nab new jobs in hi-tech sector

21:25, May 18 2014

Canterbury's hi-tech and manufacturing sector should be able to re-employ a significant number of about 60 Tait Communications staff due to lose their jobs.

Tait this week announced plans to axe the staff in the next few weeks as it concentrates on new sales of its manufactured digital radio communications systems and scales back new product development. Business leaders from Canterbury's software development and manufacturing sectors said there was a good chance that a good portion of the impacted staff would be picked up by other companies.

The staff who are in a consultation phase with Tait are not unionised.

Tait acting chief executive David Wade said those that lost their jobs would receive entitlements under redundancy provisions.

New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association chief executive John Walley said there were skills within the Tait workforce that would easily transfer elsewhere. Workers in the engineering and supply chain side of the business are the most at risk of losing their jobs as Tait restructures into a more customer focused business. Tait manufactures radio communication handsets, bases and networks for utilities and public safety agencies, such as police.

Wade said Tait would continue with its existing manufacturing capacity.


Marc Denholm, of recruitment specialist ManpowerGroup, said his firm had helped some of the 74 Tait employees made redundant last year. Not all skills were easily transferable though.

The more specialist an employee, the harder their skills were to transfer, he said.

Shaun Ryan, chief executive of SLI Systems, said his feeling was there would be enough work in Christchurch for skilled workers from Tait to pick up outside employment, even if the work was not exactly in their specific field of expertise. He had previously interviewed ex-Tait workers, but had not hired any of those employees recently, Ryan said.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said he agreed that the workers should be able to find new roles. The job losses related to Tait "reinventing itself"'. "Yes there is a high demand for skilled people in this area in Christchurch, and we're constantly hearing from people who are looking for people with technical skills and R&D skills."

Walley said the success of tech companies like Wellington's Xero and others had both created demand for skilled workers, and also increased salaries for some jobs in the wider IT manufacturing sector.

Companies like Xero that had a strong balance sheet could pay relatively well, while others that were sales-driven paid their staff less, Walley said.

Tait staff that had software writing skills, for example, would be able to transfer those skills to work for other companies, he said. Programmers could also work remotely for some companies, he said.

Tait is now looking at other cost-cutting measures including the possible leasing or sub-leasing of a 7000 square metre "new campus" property the company had previously indicated would be occupied by half its workforce.

Walley said the NZMEA was considering a move to the new campus, but there were some restrictions on what type of businesses could occupy the workspace due to zoning restrictions. There were talks with the Christchurch City Council on the issue.

Alex Bouma, who recently moved from Hewlett-Packard New Zealand to a national business development role with information management firm Optimation, said there was an "eco-system" of tech companies in Christchurch, and he hoped the staff would be picked up. The sustained high New Zealand dollar had not helped Tait's export margins.

The Press