Staff cuts likely at Foodstuffs

Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson
Foodstuffs appears set to cut staff numbers at its Dunedin distribution centre ahead of the opening of a new $45 million centre in Christchurch next year.

Foodstuffs South Island chief executive Steve Anderson said when contacted the opening of the new centre in Hornby meant its Dunedin facility would become ''more of a regional distribution centre'', which stocked a reduced range of products.

He initially said ''there would be a reduction [of] staff in Dunedin'', but when contacted later said a decision was yet to made.

''What I meant to say is, we haven't done that work yet, and if there is staff cuts we will try and do it through attrition rather than redundancies,'' Mr Anderson said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the prospect of job losses was disappointing and surprising, given the supermarket chains' reliance on Christchurch resulted in them running out of stock during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

A union representative said about 150 people worked at the Dunedin distribution centre.

Mr Anderson said the Dunedin distribution centre would remain important to the company.

Its significance was highlighted by the Christchurch earthquakes, when its activity was increased to meet the lost capacity, he said.

He did not know how many jobs could be cut, saying that would be looked at closer to the opening of the new Christchurch facility, which is expected to be midway through next year.

First Union South Island regional secretary Paul Watson said the new centre in Christchurch made job cuts appear to be inevitable.

''Dunedin can ill afford more job losses, but unfortunately the strategic commercial decision made some time ago by the Foodstuffs board of directors ... has inevitably set in train a seemingly unavoidable reduction in staff numbers at the Dunedin [distribution centre] at some point in 2014,'' Mr Watson said.

Mr Cull said apart from being disappointed about the prospect of job cuts, he was ''surprised'' by the move given what happened during the Christchurch earthquakes.

''Because distribution centres were concentrated in Christchurch, the supermarkets around the South Island ran out of products for quite some time.''

''One of the messages from the Christchurch earthquakes is that you need distributed capacity,'' Mr Cull said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the news was part of a ''disturbing trend'' of businesses moving away from regional centres to either Auckland or Christchurch.

The trend created problems by stretching infrastructure capacity in the major centres, where there was less room for growth, while infrastructure in Dunedin and other regional centres was under-utilised.

The increasing dependence on Christchurch was also concerning when it came to the risk of Dunedin running out of products in the event of natural disasters.

Foodstuffs supplies Pak'n Save, New World and Four Square stores.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

Fine by me

Im sick of the local New World being selective in what they stock, some weeks resulting in me having to go to Countdown as well.

Im happy to give all my business to Countdown now even if it means having to drive a little further. If you don't wish to support us, Foodstuffs, don't expect us to support you.

I suggest Steve Anderson goes back and does a marketing course where he will learn that its much easier to keep your existing customers than it is to gain new ones. 

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