200 Woolston jobs at risk in restructure
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
The Christchurch rebuild could mop up workers who might lose their jobs with the closure of the Independent Fisheries processing factory in Woolston, employers say.
About 200 jobs are at risk as Independent Fisheries looks at closing its Woolston processing plant.
Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the closure, if it transpired, would be a significant blow.
"However the good news it would occur in an environment where there are enormous opportunities. There’s plenty of work out there but the question will be how to match up jobs and skills," he said.
Townsend said he did not see a flow-on effect in the fishing processing sector because companies like Talleys, United and Sealord had different markets and different ways of operating.
Intense competition from heavily discounted foreign-sourced product in its key markets had forced the Christchurch-based fishing company into the move, Independent’s general manager Mark Allison said today.
"The move is the result of fierce competition from mainly Asian-sourced processed fish products of similar quality at much lower prices. This has caused a sharp decline in sales over the last three years," he said.
The market issues were compounded by damage to the Woolston facilities from the Canterbury earthquakes.
"We understand the concern that this announcement will cause for our staff, many of whom have been with us for a considerable time. We will be consulting with them and their representatives."
The company was known for its multi-ethnic workforce.
"We want to ensure that Independent Fisheries continues as a viable company making a valuable contribution to the Canterbury economy, but it is clear that we cannot do so under our current structure," Allison said.
The company planned to announce the outcome of the consultation process on November 8, he said.
Allison said other parts of the company would not be affected by the review.
Independent Fisheries is a private company, the shares in which are owned by Charles Shadbolt and various family trusts.
The company was founded by Charles’ father, Howard, in 1960 and had its beginnings as a small fish and chip shop in the Christchurch suburb of Linwood in 1956.
At its peak the company employed 400 staff and caught, mainly with charted vessels, 30,000 tonnes of fish annually.
The Woolston factory was built in 1974 and a 3000-tonne coolstore opened in 1992 at the Port of Lyttelton.
The coolstore was damaged beyond repair in the Canterbury earthquakes and the Woolston factory was awash with 1000 tonnes of liquefaction material after the quake. Staff and their families turned out in droves to help with the cleanup.
According to company information, it has for many years exported over 70 per cent of its processed and value-added crumbed and battered product.
Its main export market was Australia.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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