Industry needs your help: Union to Government

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 05:00 12/09/2012

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There are calls for the Government to do more to help New Zealand's manufacturing sector, after revelations that the Australian Government helped Norske Skog upgrade a paper mill in Tasmania, yet the company's cutbacks in New Zealand could cost 100 jobs.

Norske Skog is halving production at its Tasman mill in Kawerau and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) estimates 100 of its 290 jobs may go.

It follows a spate of job losses in the past fortnight, including 120 at Solid Energy's Huntly East mine, 65 at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, the potential loss of 20 fulltime and 200 seasonal workers at Mussel Processors, and plans by Goodman Fielder to cut its manufacturing factories from 53 to 35.

It was revealed yesterday that the Australian federal government and Tasmanian state government were subsidising an A$84 million (NZ$107m) upgrade at Norske Skog's Boyer mill.

EPMU national secretary Bill Newson today said the union and employers wanted the New Zealand Government do more to help retain manufacturing jobs.

"Employers are regularly saying to us that one of their primary concerns is there is no Government strategy for New Zealand jobs."

Manufacturing was the second largest employment sector in the country and the largest in the Auckland region.

Labour and the Greens estimate between 20,000 and 25,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since National came to power in 2008.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman today said the Government had to encourage companies to invest in research and development and upgrade their technologies. "This Government doesn't really understand that; it just takes a laissez-faire approach and if you do that, you just end up going backwards."

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce yesterday said the newspaper industry was in decline.

"The reason [Norske Skog] are maintaining volumes in Australia is because the Australian mill is closer to the newsprint markets that are still left," he told Radio New Zealand.

"It doesn't have much to do with the Australian government subsidies."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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