Summit future still 'up in air'

Some of Summit Wool's 315 staff discuss the outcome of a meeting with the company in Oamaru...
Some of Summit Wool's 315 staff discuss the outcome of a meeting with the company in Oamaru yesterday at which options for restructuring the company were outlined but no decisions made. Photo by David Bruce.
Summit Wool Spinners wants to consult its employees and their unions before deciding how to restructure Oamaru's second biggest employer in the face of "an unprecedented fall in orders".

It is looking at options, including calling for "expressions of interest" in voluntary redundancy, and shift changes.

The continuing uncertainty is frustrating some of the company's 315 staff, particularly now Summit has indicated decisions could be "a few weeks away".

Consultation with unions continues on Monday, followed by staff meetings, and there will be further discussion between the company and unions on Wednesday.

Management and staff, along with union representatives, met yesterday afternoon in the Elim Church.

After the meeting, one employee said staff wanted answers and a "definite yes or no" but the meeting "doesn't really solve anything".

"We're . . . [furious] because they don't know what's happening. It's still up in the air," he said.

People were annoyed because of the uncertainty, although they had not really expected a definite answer at the meeting. His feelings were echoed by other staff.

A hand-out given to staff said the company had been cutting costs in all areas, including a drop in hours.

It outlined three "discussion points" which would form the basis of consultations with unions and employees.

They were 10 hour shifts of four days on and four days off (already in place), nine hour shifts of four days on and four days off, and voluntary redundancy. Expressions of interest for voluntary redundancy were to be made by 10.30am on Tuesday.

It said it was the company's and the unions' hopes to have everything finalised as soon as possible.

In a statement, Summit director Ricky Hammond-Tooke said the company was not in a position to confirm any details of restructuring until consultation with employees was completed.

"We expect to be in a position to advise our employees what decisions the company has made in a few weeks," he said.

The company recognised employees and their families were going through difficult times and it would be doing everything it could to help them. Counselling was being made available to all staff.

The company had a difficult task ahead, which was the result of an "unprecedented fall in orders". The severity of the downtown was "beyond anyone's experience in the wool-spinning industry", he said.

Last November, shifts were reduced from 12 hours to 10 hours in response to the downturn in orders.

Even with those reduced shift hours, production capacity has far exceeded the current level of orders and the position was not sustainable, Mr Hammond-Tooke said.

"We are fortunate to have a very supportive owner [Sumitomo Corporation] who has invested considerably in the plant over the years, and who is standing by us as they have done so in the past during difficult industry times," he said.

Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union lead organiser John Gardner hoped the situation would be resolved shortly.

He was happy with the way the company was dealing with the situation, saying they were "doing everything they can".


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