Gloom as engineer lays off 28 staff

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2014

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Taranaki's engineering industry has suffered another blow with news of 28 redundancies at Fitzroy Engineering.

The company's managing director Richard Ellis confirmed staff had been made redundant from the Malaysian-owned company last week.

He said to his knowledge the process had been completed on Friday and there would not be any more redundancies within the company, which employed about 420 staff, any time soon.

"We've been through a process and unfortunately that's the number of people that have been made redundant and we hope to have no more," he said.

A former scaffolder at Fitzroy Engineering, who wished to remain unnamed, said he had worked for the company for more than 10 years before he was told he'd lost his job on Friday morning.

He said he knew there had been a decrease in work for the company, but had not seen the redundancies coming.

"I'll be out looking for a bit of work now, but the job market is pretty tight," he said.

Another staff member told the Taranaki Daily News an email had gone out to staff about six weeks ago saying the company was struggling and outlining potential solutions to the problem.

"Redundancies were at the bottom of it. Everyone has been talking about it."

Ellis said the redundancies were made because of a lack of contracts won by the company.

He said was the result of a combination of the strong New Zealand dollar making it difficult when bidding for jobs in Australia, and an increase in competition for work.

He said he'd seen little evidence that Taranaki or the rest of New Zealand had a "rockstar economy."

Though there was a lot of exploratory drilling going on in Taranaki, it was not necessarily turning into "execution work."

After a heightened level of activity late last year during upgrade and restart work for companies such as Methanex, Fitzroy Engineering had a surplus of staff.

"The company grew significantly last year and we are essentially going back to a more historic workforce size."

Ellis said the process to choose who would be made redundant looked at "all sorts of things" and involved the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) and Fitzroy Engineering's human resources department.

"We've tried everything we can to keep the jobs."

The confirmation of the redundancies comes less than six weeks after Labour MP Andrew Little questioned the status of Taranaki's economy during question time in Parliament. It also adds to a string of recent redundancies in Taranaki's engineering sector.

Recently jobs had also been lost at McKechnie Aluminium, Tenix, Pace Engineering and Fitzroy Yachts.

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The EPMU's Ross Henderson said staff laid off would have difficulty finding work in the region or even nationally.

"They will go overseas and we won't see them back again," he said.

He said Australian employers would only be too happy to take them on.

"There's certainly no rockstar economy.

"We're looking a little bit dire, there's no two ways about it," he said.

Union members at the company had a redundancy agreement, which would mean they would have some money to use while they were looking for work, Henderson said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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