Hutton's to close in Hamilton

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014

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An Australian food giant has carved off its New Zealand meats business and closed a Waikato factory, cutting loose 125 workers, some of whom have served for more than 40 years.

Goodman Fielder's NZ subsidiary announced its intention to sell to Christchurch-based Hellers on January 8 and yesterday managing director Peter Reidie confirmed the closure of its Hutton's factory in Hamilton.

The long-standing business processes and markets small goods meat products to the domestic market. Familiar supermarket names include Kiwi bacon and ham, Brooks Deli continental meats and bacon, Hutton's luncheon, bacon and ham, Sizzlers pre-cooked smallgoods and Milano cooked continental meats.

FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid said workers were told the sale was for the brands only and the Hamilton production site would close at the end of March.

For Glenn Bratton, an employee of 16 years, it was his third redundancy since the railways gave him the boot 25 years ago.

A spot as a sawmill kiln operator was the next job to disappear beneath his feet. From there he went to Hutton's. Now he's being cut loose again.

"I'm gutted Goodman Fielder have run a 100-year-old business into the ground," he said while nursing a post-announcement beer in his Ngaruawahia home yesterday. "Basically over the last five years I feel like they just cut us adrift."

The 49-year-old union delegate said it was not only the families of the workers that would suffer, but the wider community.

"You take 125 wages out of the community, that's a lot of money. A lot of people used to shop in Frankton - they ain't going to go there anymore."

Some employees had been in the plant owner's employ for more than 40 years, he said, and in one case a whole household got their pay cheque from Goodman Fielder.

Some will have the option of moving into either Hellers or Goodman Fielder's other operations, but Mr Reid said few would take that option as it would require a shift outside Waikato.

HAMILTON WORKERS MAY GET OFFERS

Laid-off employees at Goodman Fielder's Hamilton plant will know by March whether there are jobs available for them in Christchurch and Auckland.

Hellers confirmed yesterday the closure of Goodman Fielder's Hamilton small goods plant, and the resulting loss of 125 jobs.

In January, Hellers proposed a deal to purchase Goodman Fielder brands including Kiwi bacon and ham, Brooks Deli meats, and Sizzlers small goods. Founding director Todd Heller said then that extra work would create around 50 jobs at Hellers' plants in Auckland and Christchurch and employees at the existing factory would be given priority.

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Hellers is half-owned by Rangatira Ltd, a Wellington-based investment company over $180 million of equity.

- BusinessDay

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