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Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive Virginia Nicholls was responding to questions put to her by the Otago Daily Times after multinational food company Mondelez International announced its intention to close the factory and lay off 362 workers.
Globally, the Dunedin factory was one of the best-performing operations in the Mondelez ‘‘family’’.
Cadbury, in Dunedin, was an iconic local business. It had a committed, dedicated and skilled staff working in a business which had been operating in Dunedin since 1868, she said.
Dunedin had a high quality local milk supply and a port with easy access to international markets, making the decision to move to a more regulated environment in Australia surprising.
Manufacturing was now a global business, in a fiercely competitive environment. In the case of Cadbury, 70% of its production went to Australia, Mrs Nicholls said.
"It is devastating to lose 362 manufacturing jobs in Dunedin and it will be very difficult to replace those jobs here.
"The Dunedin community will work together to help the staff affected and to look for other roles for them. There is no doubt we are a close community but this will further test our resilience."
It was important to remember a consultation period had just started and the employers’ association would work alongside Cadbury, she said.
However, the association would also be "strongly advocating" to retain the factory in Dunedin.
Sometimes, there was an under-estimation of the dedicated, talented local workforce and how important that was for a high-achieving manufacturing environment, Mrs Nicholls said.
"Our thoughts are with the staff and their families, who have been integral to the success of Cadbury."
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan wasted no time in starting to try to find jobs for the Cadbury workers who would be laid off later this year.
In an already-scheduled meeting with Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan, Mr McGowan planned to talk about how accommodation might be arranged if some of the workers moved to Central Otago to help ease the skill shortage.
He pledged the total support of the chamber to any task force established to find a way of supporting the workers. Mr McGowan remained optimistic jobs would be found for the workers within the city or wider region.
"We have some breathing space but we need to make sure we can support these workers and move them into other jobs."
It was important to remember there would also be other victims from the factory closure.
Primary producers of milk used by Cadbury, delivery drivers, technicians and other suppliers of services to the factory would also be affected.
"This factory has one of the highest quality systems in the world — we have been told that — but its location has meant its demise."
While initially critical of the statements put out by politicians immediately after the announcement, Mr McGowan said it was important MPs got involved in any discussions about the future of Cadbury workers as they would hold sway at a Government level.