'I've done my job,' says Waitaki MP

ROSA STUDHOLME
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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A union leader has hit out at Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, saying she stood by as Oamaru's second-largest employer unwound in front of her.

Summit Wool Spinners has made its 192 workers redundant this week after the Japanese company sold the mill to Australian carpet company Godfrey Hirst.

Subsidiary Canterbury Spinners intends to keep only a skeleton staff while it takes over the company and determines whether the loss-making business can be made profitable.

The company laid off 60 staff in 2009 and a further 50 last year.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing union organiser John Gardner said he found it "distressing" Mrs Dean saw that it was happening and failed to act.

"Where has she been?"

However, Mrs Dean said she had done everything she could.

"I've done my job."

She said she had worked closely with the company when it adopted the government-subsidised nine-day fortnight scheme.

It saved 57 jobs from redundancy. Sixty other staff had taken voluntary redundancy.

"It was extremely successful and I was very pleased that the workers at Summit were able to be supported by the scheme.

"Today I've had two meetings with Work and Income New Zealand, who will be together with Inland Revenue making a regional response to help workers who have been made redundant."

She had also been contacted by Aoraki Polytechnic about retraining workers, and had worked with the unions involved.

"But I acknowledge that the union and the workers and management are in a very difficult position.

"If they hit out at me I've got broad shoulders.

"I can take it."

She said the company had been sold, not closed.

"It's not like Summit closed the doors and walked away. We got a better result than that."

The workforce was not part of the sale, she said.

"That is the reason why everybody has been made redundant.

"That is the thing that is upsetting and frightening for us all."

Work and Income was "gearing up" to assist laid-off workers.

"If they want assistance it will be there. There is going to be a response to this."

Godfrey Hirst would now "assess what they had purchased" and make an assessment on how they were going to integrate Summit into their group, she said.

However, they could not indicate what the future workforce could be.

But it was positive they were confident enough to invest by buying Summit, she said.

Jobs were available, with several vacancies on the books at Work and Income, Mrs Dean said.

There were labouring jobs available with people leaving town for the Christchurch rebuild.

Vacancies also existed in the dairy industry, she said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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