The union has about 200 members at the plant, where up to 55 workers could lose their jobs after Nestle reached a provisional agreement to sell its sugar and confectionary business to private equity firm, Quadrant Private Equity.
Well-known Kiwi brands affected by the sale include Mackintosh’s, Heards, Black Knight liquorice, Life Savers and Oddfellows.
The restructure will also see production of Nestle’s Scorched Almonds move to a third-party contractor in Melbourne, while production of the iconic Lollipops brand will move to China.
“We were aware of the sell-off of product lines and cuts to staff overseas, so we asked the company specifically if there were any such plans for New Zealand,” says Phil Knight, E tū Industry Coordinator, Manufacturing and Food.
“We were assured there were none, so this has come as a bolt from the blue,” he says.
“Not only is this the opposite of what we were told, but we weren’t invited to the meetings they held with our members late yesterday afternoon to deliver this news, prior to the public announcement.
“So, we’re very disappointed. The company has issued a letter with its reasons for this restructure and sell-off and announcing a consultation process. The union is making every case for a decent timeframe for this, given the probability of job losses.”
Phil says workers may be offered jobs at Quadrant’s Levin-based factory, or in Melbourne, “but we have yet to learn the detail of the sale proposal let alone any alternative work offers.”
In the meantime, he says the union is supporting its members “who are going through the usual range of emotions that you’d expect from an announcement like this.”
“While the union-negotiated collective agreement has very generous redundancy provisions, it is not the same as a job, and we are worried about this coming on top of other job losses in the food manufacturing industry in New Zealand,” says Phil.
Phil notes the decision comes soon after the Cadbury closure and follows announcements of future job losses at Griffins and Kraft Heinz Watties.
“This is yet another example of a global corporate making decisions which adversely affect local workers,” he says.
“I think it’s time for New Zealanders to think carefully about what products and businesses they support, and where the profits made go to.
“Where they have a choice and the products are competitively priced and of a good standard, we would urge them to consider buying New Zealand-made products only.”