By 3 News online staff
Oamaru residents are reeling after being told the town's second largest employer is shutting down.
Nearly 200 workers at the Summit Wool Spinners plant in Oamaru were yesterday told their jobs were gone. The plant's being closed after being sold to Australia’s Godfrey Hirst.
Speaking on Firstline this morning, Waitaki District Mayor Alex Familton says the impact of the job losses will be widely felt.
“This will have a far reaching impact on the community, because Summit had a particularly strong economic and social place in our community. They were tremendous supporters of our community – for example, sponsoring sports teams – and their economic benefits flowed right across the community,” says Mr Familton.
He hopes that Godfrey Hirst will eventually be able to return jobs to the community, but in the meantime he’s optimistic about those who have lost their jobs being able to find work.
“We just hope that Godfrey Hirst can pick up the challenge and run with it,” he says.
“There will be other employment opportunities because ironically we have a community that has prospered, relatively speaking. It’s difficult economic times for everybody but we’ve come through them, apart from this, reasonably well.”
Mr Familton says the key factor driving the job losses was probably wool carpet’s failure to sell well on the market, but he has also called upon the Government to address the high New Zealand dollar.
“I would hope the politicians, the Reserve Bank and the exporters would get together and I would hope some pressure could be taken off there.”
Unions for the Oamaru workers who've lost their jobs are blaming their redundancies on the Government's failure to address the issues facing the manufacturing sector.
First Union textile secretary Paul Watson says while the Summit company has been struggling for a number of years, the high New Zealand dollar has been the catalyst for the plant’s closure.
“The problem has been, of course, that when you’ve got a high New Zealand dollar [and] you’re exporting off to the US and Asia, your margins of profitability are incredibly tight,” says Mr Watson.
“There’s been some [domestic] competition from synthetic dyed nylon products, but at the same time there’s a reasonable export market going out there,” he says, “but [there’s also] the high New Zealand dollar and the lack of this Government addressing that question.”
Mr Watson says the unions involved will be meeting management at the plant today to discuss what support can be offered to help the redundant workers find new employment.
“There will be some employment under the new owner – the nature of that employment, the numbers, we’re not sure yet. The union’s having discussions with the new company today.”
Godfrey Hirst is promising the creation of a least a few jobs when the plant re-opens under new management at the end of the month.
Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Godfrey Hirst general manager Tania Pauling said between 20 and 30 positions were likely to be created – and as many as 50 could end up employed.
Watch the video for the full interviews.