The speed at which Oceana Gold has pushed through job
cuts at Macraes gold mine has shocked workers and the fall-out
is expected to continue with losses at other firms.
Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand secretary Calvin Fisher
said that last Thursday and Friday, Oceana Gold made about 76
of its open-pit staff redundant, less than two weeks after
the cuts were announced as a response to falling gold prices.
''That took place on commencement of shifts over the three
shift cycle. People were brought in by bus ... letters were
issued and those affected by the decision were bussed off the
This meant ''well over 100 people'', including the 39 Gough
Group employees who serviced vehicles at the mine and non-pit
staff, had been laid off in the past two weeks.
The number made redundant since last September would be ''up
''The speed with which the company prepared a plan surprised
a lot of them and they probably didn't see it coming as
clearly as they perhaps could have.''
Many senior staff laid off - who felt their experience meant
they would keep their jobs - were also surprised at the
''skill mix'' of the people kept on.
The fallout from the cuts would continue as smaller
contractors, including engineering firms, fuel companies and
the bus company which transported staff to the mine, were
forced to lay off staff.
''There is a domino effect and it's impacting on those
''Its significance to the community is enormous.''
The downturn in the mining sector in New Zealand and overseas
and the lack of work requiring similar skills in the Otago
area - such as large infrastructure projects - meant it would
be difficult for the redundant workers to find new jobs.
''The real tragedy of this is that ... the provincial economy
for people with these skills has not been going ahead.''
Some staff had told him they regretted not finding work in
the mining sector elsewhere in recent years.
''Had they gone, they might have been redundant elsewhere,
because there are many thousands of miners out of work in the
industry, because of the global drop in commodity prices,''
Mr Fisher said.
He did not blame the company for the job losses and said its
plan to ''more or less'' secure jobs for the remaining
workforce - which still exceeded 400 - until at least the
middle of next year was a good one, given the ''volatility''
of the gold market.
He was also grateful the company accepted voluntary
redundancies and that it did the ''right thing'' in terms of
the redundancy package for the laid-off staff.
He encouraged laid-off staff to attend a meeting being held
this Friday, which would be attended by an employment
specialist from Winz.
SGS New Zealand business manager Hugh McMillan said the
laboratory testing company, which had 30 staff at Macraes
providing a range of services, was yet to make any staff
redundant and was waiting to ''see how things unfold''.
RedBull Powder Company Ltd managing director Peter Shapiro, a
provider of blasting services to Macraes, said it was
''working through'' the situation with Oceana Gold and could
not comment on whether the cuts would affect its staff
Oceana Gold did not respond to questions yesterday.