NZ Post's machinery means 100 jobs lost

NZ Post's announcement that it will axe 100 jobs at its Datamail subsidiary has come as a blow to Wellington, with 70 of the redundancies at its Petone office.

The news yesterday came less than 24 hours after Wellington-based Contact Energy told staff it would be cutting its 1100 head count by 10 per cent across the board, starting later this year.

That sets workers off to a dire start to the year, with 300 job losses already expected due to redundancies at Norske Skog and Summit Wool Spinners, as well as the 200 people left unemployed by the sudden collapse of Mainzeal.

A NZ Post spokesman, John Tulloch, said the job losses were as a result of a decision to replace ageing laser printers with modern full-colour equivalents, which are already being used by competitors HP and Western Mailing.

The new machines automate many of the tasks previously done by hand, allowing Datamail to more efficiently produce addressed mail and advertising for its commercial customers.

The shift will result in 30 job losses in Auckland, and 70 in Wellington, while 30 new positions will be created in Christchurch.

Mr Tulloch said the reduced headcount meant Datamail only needed two production sites, and it made sense to have one in both the North and South Island, which was why Petone bore the brunt of the cuts.

He stressed the cuts were not related to declining mail volumes, with the business market robust but competitive.

Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said the redundancies would deal a major blow to the Petone community.

"We understand the impact of technology with automated colour machines that are less labour-intensive to operate, but it would have seemed sensible to retain the Petone plant, at least in part, to service the government sector clients which make up a big part of their business."

EPMU postal spokesman Joe Gallagher said the union was working with NZ Post on the redundancy process, but the aim would be to keep workers out of the job market for as long as possible, which he described as "not a good place to be".

Last week's Household Labour Force Survey showed that while the headline unemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage points to 6.9 per cent in the December quarter, the participation rate fell to 67.2 per cent, its lowest level since 2004.

The data showed 240,000 were employed in the manufacturing sector at the end of last year, down from about 257,000 in the previous year.

"If the Government wants to believe there isn't a jobs crisis, the rest of the people in New Zealand know there's one," Mr Gallagher said.

The Minister for Employment Development, Steven Joyce, acknowledged the difficulties faced by the Datamail staff, but said it was a reflection of the overall economic environment.

"What we are seeing in the New Zealand economy is what is happening in the world economy.

"We're getting lower levels of growth than we have historically, and that's because of the global financial crisis. We are seeing growth in some areas but losses in others."

Mr Tulloch said they were looking to save as many jobs as possible but service level agreements meant the new machines would start being phased in from the middle of the year.