New Zealand gets the flick from Bic

Last updated 05:00 11/09/2013

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The pen that you write with will no longer be made in New Zealand, and the man who spent a decade telling us Bic pens were the business couldn't be sadder.

The ink has run out at Bic's Auckland pen factory, with 19 people set to lose their jobs by early next year.

Entertainers Ray Woolf and the late Sir Howard Morrison spent 12 years as the frontmen for Bic in this country, perfecting the tagline: "The lighter you light with, the pen that you write with, the shaver so slick - another great Bic."

Yesterday, Woolf said he was sad to hear about the job losses, and the end of an era for Bic.

Many who are to lose their jobs have been at the pen factory for decades, including one woman who on Friday will celebrate her 40th anniversary with the company.

Woolf, who remembered the tune to the two ad jingles he recorded each year but not the lyrics, said the company paid him quite well.

"It wasn't the earth, but I had lighters and pens coming out my ears."

Morrison and Woolf fronted the campaign between 1977 and 1989.

Woolf, who had a beard at the time, was often chosen to hawk the lighters rather than the razors.

Bic's Auckland closure has come as Bic's French owners decide it is cheaper to import pens from South Africa.

Societe Bic has annual revenues of about €1.56 billion (NZ$2.57 billion) and employs more than 8500 people worldwide. It made its first pen in New Zealand in 1956.

In a written statement, Bic general manager Oceania Peter Travers said other operations in Auckland would continue.

This included warehousing and logistics, support services, finance and customer services.

He refused to answer direct questions on Bic's proposal to cease making pens in Auckland.

The decision, made after several months of evaluating the New Zealand business, had been difficult, he said. The operation's viability had come under pressure due to rising manufacturing costs.

"We understand this is a difficult time for our staff and apologise for any distress caused. We are committed to supporting our staff throughout this process."

The proposal would be finalised by the end of the month.

EPMU manufacturing industry organiser Louisa Jones said the company has said it will enter a one-week consultation period, but it was likely about 19 of the 25 staff would lose their jobs by early next year. Six workers were likely to be retained.

"Most workers at Bic are long-serving and they have been incredibly loyal and dedicated, so this is a real shock for them," she said.

"It's going to be very hard to find similar work, given the state the manufacturing sector is in."

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The workers were covered by an industry collective agreement that provided for up to 12 weeks' redundancy, but the union would try to negotiate more weeks for longer-serving staff.

"These are the people who have made Bic's product and built its brand in New Zealand over the last four decades, and they deserve to be treated right."

- Fairfax Media

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