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April 18: Staff and unions at Fisher and Paykel Appliances' Mosgiel plant are angered by the loss of 430 jobs announced yesterday, but chief executive John Bongard defended the decision as necessary to save the company.
In a double blow for Dunedin, only hours after yesterday morning's Fisher and Paykel announcement, Tamahine Knitwear announced it would close in July, with the loss of a further 50 jobs in the city.
The knitwear company cited the "flood of low-cost Asian imports" and the high New Zealand dollar as the primary causes for the closure.
The Fisher and Paykel Appliances retrenchment, with the first of the 430 job cuts to be in December this year and the last in May 2009, will see the end of manufacturing at the plant.
The whiteware manufacturer is also closing plants in California and Cleveland in the United States, and in Brisbane, under its "new global manufacturing strategy" - with a total of about 1000 job losses. Production will move to a just-purchased plant in Mexico, or to production facilities in Thailand or Italy.
The move will leave about 90 jobs at the Mosgiel plant in its design and product engineering group - where Fisher and Paykel's signature dish drawer product has been the manufacturing mainstay for 11 years.
At its peak, the 22-year-old plant employed 600-700 workers seasonally.
The past two years have been unsettling for Mosgiel staff as Fisher and Paykel redundancies elsewhere climbed to about 500 - including 450 laid off in Auckland.
Mr Bongard described yesterday's announcement as "devastating" for staff and a "horrible day" for the company, but defended the decision in operational terms.
"If we had not taken this decision we would not have had a company left," he said from Auckland, immediately after Mosgiel staff were informed of the decision.
The decision has long-term implications for housing, employment and growth in Dunedin and Mosgiel.
Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie, hearing of the announcement yesterday while in Shanghai, said although Fisher and Paykel had been an integral part of the community for decades, the decision revealed "they were turning their back on Dunedin and New Zealand".