'Dark day' as 185 jobs axed

Last updated 19:18 15/03/2013

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There have been 185 job losses from the sale of printing firm Geon to rival printer Blue Star Group.

Catalogue and marketing material printer Geon went in to receivership in February and was bought by Blue Star last week, who today announced that it had bought all Geon’s printing machinery and other assets and would be axing 185 jobs nationally.

Only 50 positions, including senior management, would be kept. The 40 workers in Wellington employed at two sites in Petone printing catalogues, marketing and mailout campaign materials, are now out of work as the sites will be shut down.

About 20 Geon workers would be given temporary contracts to work at Blue Star’s Highbrook plant in Auckland while its Napier operations would keep running at reduced capacity.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union print sector organiser Joe Gallagher said it was "a dark day" for workers and their families but it was not surprising that jobs were lost at Geon, which was deep in debt.

"Some of our members have been there 16 years or more and they now find themselves in a very uncertain job market," Gallagher said.

"This is very a tough time to find yourself unemployed. Just this week we’ve seen hundreds of people apply for seven packing jobs worth $15 an hour at Carter Holt Harvey. People are desperate for work and the jobs just aren’t there."

The union would be working with Blue Star Group to ensure its members received redundancy entitlements.

McGrathNicol receiver Andrew Grenfell who worked on Geon said Blue Star Group’s offer was the best received after advertising troubled business for sale.

"We are disappointed that more jobs could not be retained, but the current difficult nature of the print industry has made redundancies unavoidable in this case."

Geon was established in 2007 from the merger of Promentum and Pacific Print Group then sold to American private equity firm KKR and Australian private equity fund Allegro last year.

Allegro managing director Chester Moynihan reportedly told industry publication ProPrint he thought the New Zealand arm of trans-tasman Geon was a "good performing" operation but his attempt to get more time to turn it around before receivers were called in failed.

"With New Zealand, our view was they had too many sites and management were of the same view. There was a strategy there around site rationalisation and, again, investment."

Blue Star’s Tom Sturgess did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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