Rehired workers positive news for wool plant

Robbie McMurtrie, from Oamaru, delighted to be back at work at the Canterbury Spinners wool plant...
Robbie McMurtrie, from Oamaru, delighted to be back at work at the Canterbury Spinners wool plant in Oamaru. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
About half the 192 staff made redundant following the sale of the former Summit Woolspinners plant in Oamaru have been rehired as the factory undergoes a modernisation phase heading into the new year.

The new owner, Canterbury Spinners, an offshoot of Australian carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst, originally re-employed 61 people while it assessed the future prospects of the plant.

But company spokesman Geoff Senescall said 85 people were now employed at the plant, which was sold in January. Internal sections of the factory were being redeveloped.

''They are basically improving the factory layout, so they are opening up a few walls and pouring concrete in the floor ... it's business as usual.

''They are comfortable with the staffing and production levels at the moment, but keeping a watch on market conditions and, if they improve, they will reassess.''

Mr Senescall said there were no plans to increase the production of wool yarn for carpets. Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said the situation was ''very positive'' and ''welcome news just before Christmas''.

It was also encouraging for the families and for those back in work at an important time of year.

''Some of them have been through the mill this year, in terms of their jobs, and job security. I think it's also testament to the good stable workforce we have here in Oamaru,'' she said.

''I have to congratulate Canterbury Spinners for having the foresight in purchasing the business and for their commitment to making it work.

''If we were going to get a Christmas present in this town, that would be it.''

Machine mechanic Robbie McMurtrie, from Oamaru, was re-employed by the new company in March and, although a month without work had seemed like ''taking evasive action'', he was now thrilled to have money coming in before Christmas.

''We have been going through a few changes; there are machines going out and coming in, but it's got to be good for the town.

''There are a lot of outside contractors in the place, so that has got to be good for the flow-on effects.''

There has been a yarn factory on the Weaver St site for about 130 years. Sumitomo Group bought Summit Wool Spinners in 1992, from Alliance Textiles.

It employed about 250 people at the beginning of 2012, but a fall in international demand for its products saw a call for voluntary redundancies and a reduction in staff to 192, before the plant was sold to its new owner.

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