Annies' owners accept blame
Problems at Annies fruit bar manufacturers in Grovetown are long-standing and run deeper than a botched export order, says redundant workers' union representative Bill Watt.
The business went into receivership on Friday and by the end of the weekend 30 staff had lost their jobs.
According to receivers Pricewaterhouse Coopers 23 people were still employed by the business, including management.
Annies' owners Annie and Graeme Giles say having to repackage 4 million fruit bars for a major United States client is the sole reason for the receivership.
They take full responsibility for the mistake which resulted from a change in labelling rules.
"We are not blaming staff or anyone else," Mr Giles said.
Mr Watt, of the New Zealand Meat Workers and Related Trades Union, said two chief executives employed by Annies had left in the last 14 months or so.
The company also lost two board members, a human resources manager and at least two factory managers in the same period.
"When a company is losing that many staff it is clear something is not right," Mr Watt said.
The export of 4 million apricot fruit bars containing undeclared apple to a major United States customer was "a massive balls-up" but not a first for the company, he said.
"I guess it's the old story that they've done it for years and regulations have tightened up."
Mr Giles described high staff turnover as growing pains as a cottage industry became more corporate and was unrelated to the packaging error. Annies had a labelling problem last year but it was survivable and with far less impact on cashflow.
Orders from other, smaller, clients had not dropped off and trading on was the business's best route to recovery, he said.
A redundant Annies worker said the Giles were good people who did their best to help staff.
However, they seldom visited the factory and were out of touch with problems.
Mr Giles said as a company grew it was normal for owners to spend more time in the board room than on the factory floor.
Production fell several months ago because of stalled orders from the American company but Annies kept the workers on full pay at considerable cost.
"For 26 or 27 years we have traded well but this has been an insurmountable glitch," Mr Giles said.
John Fisk of receivers Pricewaterhouse Coopers said staff would be paid to the end of last week but their parting cheque would not include holiday pay or redundancy.
However, they would be first in line for money owing once payment for Annies' products and debt payments came through.
There was strong buyer interest in Annies which continued to trade, Mr Fisk said.
- The Marlborough Express