Goulds closure shocks staff
PAUL EASTON, MICHELLE DUFF AND HANK SCHOUTEN
LATEST: Staff who are likely to lose their jobs at Lower Hutt-based Goulds meat processing plant sang a Cook Island hymn as they lowered the flag outside their factory this morning.
Union delegate Dolly Pulekautuha-Lai said it was very sad and moving as the staff, many of them who had been with the company for decades, left the Seaview plant after being told they may be made redundant.
''The majority of them are Rarotongan and they are very humble people, they were very sad and very quiet when they heard the news.''
She said the 55 staff included about five married couples, there were a few fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and many of the staff were related to each other.
''It's a sad situation for a lot of people but we don't really know yet.''
''It's a shock to everybody, we didn't see it coming,'' said Mrs Pulekautuha-Lai who has been working in the plant's packing room for the past six years.
''I'll have to find another job as I still have dependents and for the vast majority of people, who have been working here so long, it will be hard to find employment.
Many had been working at the plant for over 30 years when the business moved from Berhampore to Seaview and there was a lot of affection for Russell Gould, the 86 year old co-founder of the company.
She said the closure was going to have an impact on many other people and businesses who supplied Goulds.
As she was talking outside the plant this afternoon potential creditors were calling to see if they could retrieve materials they had supplied to the company.
STAFF TOLD OF JOB LOSSES
Staff at the factory were sent home this morning as liquidators were call in to wind up the struggling meat processing business.
Company chairman Graeme Reeves said only a few staff were working in the Seaview plant today and the future of the business would probably not be clear until Monday or Tuesday.
"No one has been made redundant yet, but there was a prospect that could happen."
Mr Reeves said that staff were told before they were sent home that the future of the business was uncertain.
''We've made provision to have WINZ out here to talk to them about what might be available for them and we've also had a recruiter out here as people have skills.''
''The main problem with this company is that it doesn't have any money. We haven't got a shareholding base that could put capital in the business and the fact is they've done the opposite over time.
''The plants needs capital expenditure and it needs working capital.''
Mr Reeves, who came into the business about a year ago, said he told shareholders early on ''this company needs x amount of dollars and they simply said no.''
''A lot of my time has been putting together other options.''
A possible sale of the business fell over on Tuesday and while it could still happen, the company was not in a position to wait any longer and that was why they were now asking the court to appoint a liquidator.
Recent efforts to restructure the company and generate new business had failed to turn it around.
There was strong competition from Hellers and Premier who had the money to get scale and new plant while Goulds had been crippled by a failure to do the same over a long period of time.
It had tried to move into distribution, produce new product lines and do contract meat processing.
''Some of these things were starting to happen but it wasn't quick enough.''
The plant, which employs 55 staff, was until a few months ago turning over about $1 million a month.
Mr Reeves said he was not able to give any information on the company's indebtedness.
Goulds Fine Foods was set up by Russell and Harold Gould in the 1950s and it is now owned by six family trusts, which Mr Reeves said was part of the difficulty.
It is a major employer in the Hutt Valley and last year celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union organiser Kim Ellis yesterday said some of the workers at the factory had been there for 40 years, with husbands and wives working alongside one another.
"It's really sad, a lot of the staff that work there are family.
"We knew the company was in some trouble, but it really was a shock today. We thought there was some light at the end of the tunnel, but at the end of the day the workers have paid the price. The company did do their best."
Mr Ellis said EPMU members at Goulds were all covered by a redundancy agreement, "And we'll be working to ensure the receivers honour this commitment and pay out our members' full entitlements".
Contact Paul Easton
- © Fairfax NZ News
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