Workers dazed at losing jobs

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013

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About 60 Christchurch employees of Steelbro New Zealand were in shock yesterday after being told they will lose their jobs between now and April, a union says.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union district organiser John Kaye said receivers told the employees in the manufacturing section of the Christchurch branch of Steelbro they would be let go in the next few months.

Steelbro has been in business in Christchurch since 1878, when it was established by the Steel family. It was originally a coach builder, but now specialises in making container lifting equipment.

A statement on the company website from August says the company remains family owned, and that its reach had moved well beyond Christchurch.

Corporate advisory, insolvency and restructuring specialist PPB Advisory had been appointed administrators for Steelbro NZ yesterday, a spokeswoman for PPB said. Ferrier Hodgson had also been appointed as receivers for the firm.

Kaye said workers at the Treffers Rd plant were called into a meeting by the receivers late yesterday morning to be told that the manufacturer would be "progressively" shut down.

"All the orders that they've got, they're going to complete obviously with a view to shutting it down around about the end of March . . .

"It's just Steelbro New Zealand that is affected. They've got a factory in China, something in Malaysia, Australia and Brazil."

There was a possibility that some research and development and customer services work would remain in Christchurch, but the bulk of jobs would go, Kaye said.

Business in Christchurch had been quiet in recent months, but workers were not ready for the news of the pending closure. "I wouldn't say it was unexpected, but it did come as a shock when you get told the news, it does come as a big shock."

The receivers had said they would endeavour to pay out the redundancies as laid out under the collective contract.

However, this was not guaranteed as it was not known how the final orders would stack up.

"I think the best way I can describe it is staged redundancies . . .

"What they are hoping is that the money that comes in from the outstanding work in the wash up at the end will cover everybody's entitlements," Kaye said.

Some workers had been with Steelbro for 40 or more years.

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- The Press

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