Unions 'concerned' over payouts for some workers

David Parker outside the Summit Wool Spinners plant in Oamaru. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
David Parker outside the Summit Wool Spinners plant in Oamaru. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
First Union and the EPMU are seeking legal advice as they are ''concerned'' over redundancy payments for some Summit Wool Spinners employees.

A joint statement from both unions said while workers would be paid redundancy packages in accordance with existing collective agreements, which would vary on length of service, workers leaving before the provisional end of the plant operations on February 28 would still by entitled to their redundancy compensation. However, legal advice was being taken ''over redundancy compensation for workers made redundant in the past and then re-employed by the company''.

The statement added that workers staying until the last day of work would receive a payment of $1000, or $500 if they worked part time.

Summit's Japanese parent company, Sumitomo, announced last week all workers would be made redundant after the sale of the mill to Canterbury Spinners.

Labour Party finance spokesman and former Otago MP David Parker yesterday met Summit management and workers' union representatives, and said the 192 workers faced with redundancy were still coming to terms with the situation.

''It is a very raw time for those workers.''

Mr Parker said it was ''outrageous'' Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce yesterday called for more direct foreign investment in New Zealand industry, when the Summit redundancies were ''another example'' of foreign investors forced to pull out of provincial towns because of a high exchange rate.

''Sumitomo has been a very, very loyal investor for a long time, but they have given up because under New Zealand's economic settings they can't prosper.''

According to the latest Statistics New Zealand figures, the Waitaki district would experience zero population growth for the next 20 years, and the number of people aged between 40 and 64 would decrease 27%, he said.

''The consequences for towns like Oamaru, with no population growth, an ageing population and a decreasing workforce, are pretty dismal,'' he said.

He feared the coming census would reveal

Oamaru's situation was even worse than thought, Mr Parker said.

However, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said the Waitaki Dam renovation, ongoing irrigation work and the replacement of the Kurow bridges all boded well for Oamaru's future in terms of employment.

''In the last week many potential employers have approached Work and Income keen to take on the skilled workforce from Summit. Most of the workers are in the 40-plus age bracket with a great skill level, work ethic and therefore highly desirable to potential employers.''

Oamaru already had a skills shortage because of the rebuilding of Christchurch and the ''recent strong activity'' shown by potential employers wanting to hire Summit staff was ''very encouraging'', she said.

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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