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Summit Closure ‘Devastating’

Article Date: 
Thursday, March 28, 2013

On January 31 Summit Wool Spinners announced the closure of its Oamaru mill with the loss of 192 jobs.

Sharon Solomon, FIRST Union head delegate at the plant and Southern Textile representative on the union’s national executive said the workers at the mill are devastated.

“Most of the workers have lost a big chunk of their household income because often both husband and wife work at the mill,” she said.

“The population of Oamaru is only 13,000 and Summit was the second largest employer in the town. The closure will take about $11 million in wages out of the town’s economy.”

Sharon said the closure was not entirely unexpected.

“There have been warning signs for about three years and we have had two previous rounds of redundancy.

The company has been making huge losses because of the high exchange rate and the downturn in the demand for carpet yarn.”

The chances of finding another job in the town are slim, Sharon said.

“The jobs that are around are part-time or casual. A few of the workers have gone into the freezing works for the rest of the season but they will be looking for work again soon. People will have to leave Oamaru but who will buy or rent their houses?”

The plant has been bought by Godfrey Hirst subsidiary Canterbury Spinners, whose Christchurch factory was destroyed in the earthquake, and Sharon hopes they may be able to provide jobs for some of the laid off workers in the future.

“A lot of the workers went to the mill straight from school and are hoping some jobs might become available there again,” she said.

Workers had a redundancy agreement and will also be paid an extra $1000 retention payment if they work their three week notice period out.

Work and Income and IRD have visited the mill to give advice and the Aoraki Polytechnic has offered to waive fees for any of the workers who wish to take courses.

FIRST Union is trying to negotiate with the Government for further assistance and support with job searching for the workers.

More news and updates for Summit workers are at this link.

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