Workers hope for pre-Christmas payout

BENN BATHGATE
Last updated 18:51 27/11/2013
Tachikawa worker protest
BENN BATHGATE/Fairfax NZ

PROTEST: Redundant Tachikawa workers outside Hancock Forest Management

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The logging firm whose legal action threatens to delay redundancy payments for former Tachikawa workers remains a mystery after a First Union picket outside the wrong company.

The union named Hancock Forest Management as the company that was launching legal action against Tachikawa receivers KordaMentha, a process that has put redundancy payments to 130 former workers on hold.

Speaking to a crowd of around 100 former Tachikawa staff and family members outside the Hancock premises in Rotorua, First Union general secretary Robert Reid said they were ‘‘99 per cent sure it’s Hancocks.’’

However, in a surprise move Hancock general manager Bill McCallum fronted up to the protesters and denied the company was behind the legal action.

‘‘I understand your concerns and can state with good faith that Hancock has not made a claim on Tachikawa assets,’’ he said.

‘‘We have not lodged any action that would hold up the distribution of assets. We have not endeavoured to jump the queue.’’

Reid said KordaMentha told him last Friday that workers could expect a ‘‘substantial’’ redundancy payment in early December.

‘‘Within a few hours they rang again to say that was all off because one log supplier has put a claim in before you.’’

First Union president Syd Keepa said the claim was ‘‘over and above what the receivers believe they are entitled to.’’

‘‘Regardless of whether they have any grounds for this claim, if they continue with their legal action then the receivers have no option but to place the matter before the court, which takes both time and money away from the pool available to creditors, including workers.’’

He said the action of the logging firm, in effect blocking the redundancy payments, was ‘‘unforgivable.’’

In the wake of McCallum’s surprise appearance Reid told the assembled protesters the union would find out the identity of the logging company behind the legal action ‘‘by fair means or foul.’’

He named Forest Managers, PF Olsen and Kiangora Timberlands as possible candidates.

Forest Managers general manager Chas Hutton told the Fairfax they had not launched any legal action, Kiangora Timberlands declined to comment and at the time of writing PF Olsen chief executive Peter Clark had not responded.

KordaMentha are yet to reply to repeated calls, however  Reid said the latest update he had received was that issues around redundancy payments ‘‘are being progressed’’ and that staff may receive a payment before Christmas. 

Meanwhile, Company Office documents filed in May show the Tachikawa sawmill was struggling under a net loss of $12.5 million in new and accumulated losses.

Its total net loss was $3m for the year to December last year, and its gross profits were $573,879 - roughly half of what it had made the year before.

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Its auditors Iles Casey noted that the company was in breach of its banking covenants and needed to use a capped overdraft which was reviewable for the rest of the year.

"These conditions indicated the existence of an uncertainty that may cast doubt on the company's ability to continue as a going concern," the auditors said.

- Fairfax Media

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