Fletcher workers say jobs are gone

Fletcher Construction will close its Taranaki office and 37 jobs will be lost despite the company saying the idea is just a proposal, the branch's union representative says.

The company's building and materials general manager, Greg Pritchard, last week announced a proposal to shut down the company's Taranaki branch. He gave staff seven days to come up with a plan to save their jobs and will announce on Friday if their plan is accepted.

But Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union representative Jarad Mason said none of his colleagues expected to have a job by Friday and the "proposal" was a foregone conclusion.

"When they say to us you have to come up with a reason for us not to close you down and then tell us financial reasons aren't why they want us to shut, well, what do you do? We were asked the impossible," he said.

They had been told the company was no longer interested in small jobs and only wanted projects which would make them "a million or more", Mason said.

The favoured projects were stadiums, hospitals and medical laboratories, he said.

The proposal to close the Taranaki branch had come as a complete surprise and there had been "stunned mullets everywhere" when it was announced, Mason said.

"Most people are still in shock.

"They're worried about their futures. This affects more than the 37 of us who will lose their jobs.

"It's our families as well."

Yesterday, Pritchard said the work Fletcher Construction was increasingly asked to deliver across the central North Island was of a larger scale.

"Consultation with staff is a genuine attempt to find workable solutions which reflect this market shift," he said.

Employees had been offered assistance to find work within the company, though Mr Mason said this would mostly be in Christchurch, an area not everyone wanted to move to.

Pritchard said the company would continue to target work in Taranaki but on a project by project basis.

The company's most recent large-scale project was the $80 million Taranaki Base Hospital upgrade. In the past Fletcher has been involved in the Yarrow Stadium upgrade and New Plymouth's foreshore development.

The provincial pull-out has the potential to impact on Fletcher's ability to get similar work in the future. Though the New Plymouth District Council does not have a policy to favour Taranaki contractors, it received a barrage of heavy criticism last year when a Wellington firm was awarded the Festival of Lights contract ahead of a local business.

Fairfax Media