New owner in former Summit mill on Friday

The new owner of the Summit Wools Spinners plant in Oamaru will take up residence on Friday, and is expected to make a decision on the long-term future of the plant by May.

The plant, which employs 192 people, was sold to Canterbury Spinners, an offshoot of Australian carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst, in January. Summit financial director Ricky Hammond Tooke yesterday confirmed that February 28 would be the final day of trading, before the new owner moved in a day later.

''Basically, we walk out on February 28, and they walk in on March 1.''

As part of the sale all 192 workers would be made redundant, but a New Zealand spokesman for Godfrey Hirst said it was expected a skeleton crew of about 50 staff would be rehired short-term, while the company investigated the plant's future.

''Godfrey Hirst had a plant in Christchurch, which got destroyed in the earthquake, and they relocated capacity to other plants in the North Island, but they don't have a South Island spinning operation.''

He said the Oamaru plant ''could'' allow the company to have a South Island presence, but that would not be known for several months.

''We will probably know by May what the future of the plant may be.''

EPMU lead organiser John Gardner said although the new owners had made job offers to some management staff, the majority of rank-and-file employees had been left in limbo.

''As yet, they haven't done anything about production-type people''.

Mr Gardner said it was expected that most workers would finish up today.

''The workers have been finishing for a period of time now. All the actual workers will be finished [today],'' he said It was now a case of ''wait and see'', as to how many workers would be offered employment at the plant.

andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz