Effort to keep Frankton factory open

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 11:20 21/01/2014
Huttons
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

Factory closing: Hutton’s factory in Frankton is to close in March after the firm was sold to Hellers in Christchurch. All the 125 staff are likely to go.

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A group of interested parties from the pork industry might be the last hope for 125 Frankton workers faced with losing their jobs.

Two weeks ago Australasian company Goodman Fielder announced it had accepted the proposed $17 million sale of its meat business to Hellers, a South Island-based company.

In an announcement made simultaneously to the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges, Goodman Fielder said all 125 jobs at it's Frankton factory would go as part of the deal.

The sale was contingent upon a consultation process with staff, due to end tomorrow.

However, FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid outlined details of a bank-backed bid from a "coalition of interests from pig farming and the pig farming industry" to a meeting of city leaders called to look at options for keeping the factory open.

Reid said he was contacted by a representative of the bidder recently who was "concerned at the demise of the plant".

"We have put them in touch with Goodman Fielder and they rang Goodman Fielder this morning.

"So we know there is another bid out there. Whether or not they [Goodman Fielder] decide to look at it seriously is up to them."

Labour list MP Sue Moroney, who convened the meeting of city leaders, said she would seek a meeting with Goodman Fielder to discuss the bid, and any options it raised for keeping the factory open.

She said representatives from the Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council and a National MP would also be a part of the group seeking assurance from the company it would consider the new bid.

"We want to get an undertaking that they will take stakeholders and community interests into account.

"We will ask them to look at it [the new bid] with seriousness and urgency."

National Party MP for Hamilton West Tim Macindoe said he was open to being part of the group if there was a realistic chance it would keep the factory open.

"This is a private sector company making decisions for private reasons. It's not something we can just wade in and say ‘change your mind about this'."

He said more detail was needed around the new bid before it was known whether it was a viable option.

Three Hamilton City Councillors at the meeting are also urging the Commerce Commission to investigate the sale, saying the proposed acquisition would give Hellers Ltd over 50 per cent of the market share in it's segment.

Dave Macpherson, Martin Gallagher and Ewan Wilson each signed a letter outlining their concerns to the commission, including the possibility of a caveat being placed over the site.

"If this is so, and we also ask the Commission to investigate these suggestions, we are concerned that it would also be anti-competitive, and would severely limit an important opportunity for any replacement or alternative Hamilton-based enterprise to be established."

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- Waikato

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