Last day at Huttons for 120 workers

Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014

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For Te Aroha Tihi, the last day of work at Hamilton's Huttons factory was a time for reflection.

The 35-year-old union delegate joined fellow workers yesterday to say goodbye to each other and to their factory.

Tihi said former workers had also shown up and this reflected the factory's history of being a major employer in Hamilton for more than 80 years.

‘This place has a huge past. A lot of old hands and past employees are showing up today so I think we'll be happy to see them.

"Just to be together and say goodbye to this place."

More than 120 jobs were axed when factory owners Goodman Fielder sold the small goods meat brands processed at the Frankton site to Christchurch-based Hellers.

First Union general secretary Robert Reid called the job losses "unnecessary."

Labour list MP Sue Moroney said the lay-offs would "hit affected families and the Hamilton economy hard".

But for Tihi, who had worked at Hutton's for 12 years, the feeling on the last day of the factory was more reflective.

"It is a sad day. It really is, at the end of it."

Hutton's slice operator Teresa Spencer said the prospect of saying farewell to long-time friends was upsetting.

The 44-year-old struggled through tears as she described the people she had worked alongside over the past 18 years.

"I've made good friends who have come and gone. I've seen three generations in that factory. You just can't sit there and not have emotions on the last day."

Spencer's own link to the Hutton's site can be traced back to the 1960s, when her mother Shirley worked there.

"I did email her," said Spencer about sharing the news with her mother.

"She said it was just a shame."

Both Tihi and Spencer were optimistic about their prospects for the future.

Tihi will take on the job of redundancy support co-ordinator, starting on Monday.

The role was initiated by First Union to support laid-off workers to find new employment.

"I'll assist however possible," Tihi said.

"Helping people with their CVs, applying online. There are a lot of things that us employees have not needed to know, because we've been here such a long time.

"But the world out there has changed. And we need to adapt to those changes and hopefully find work outside of here."

Spencer acknowledged the training she had received in her years at Hutton's would be helpful when she looked for new work.

"With all my qualifications I've received from this job I have a recruitment agency which has put me on their books.

"I applied three weeks ago and since then I actually had another three people from recruitment agencies get back to me.

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Spencer said her qualifications not only provided a better chance to move into new work, they also helped her personal growth and development.

Because of this she will leave Hutton's with pride.

"The pride of what I've accomplished."

Goodman Fielder communications and public relations manager Ra Fletcher said it had been a tough day for everyone at Frankton.

"We had to make the very difficult decision to close this factory given the tough market conditions which have existed for the meats business for some time," he said.

"We explored a number of alternative possibilities; however, none of these was viable which led to the decision to sell the business and close the factory."

He said that yesterday was about saying thanks to their people, many of whom have worked in the Hamilton business for a number of years.

"Obviously it's been a difficult period for everyone involved. Our priority has been to ensure we support our people as best we can under these circumstances."

- Waikato Times

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