Sealord, New Zealand's largest deep sea fishing company, is cutting as many as 180 land-based jobs in a restructuring of its business.
But 50 jobs at sea will be created by the commissioning of another factory freezer trawler.
It was more profitable to process at sea, said chief executive Graham Stuart.
The easy option would be to close the Nelson plant but the company had decided against this. It was proposing to reduce it to one shift, said Stuart.
Sealord is buying out its partner fishing company Yuken, saying the move will position it for growth in the deep sea fishing industry in Argentina.
It is also planning to sell some of its Marlborough Sounds mussel farms to free up money to fund growth.
That growth is in factory trawlers at the expense of processing onshore in Nelson.
The company is talking to staff about reducing its wetfish processing plant in Nelson to a single day shift.
A new factory freezer trawler will replace a fresh fish trawler and reduce the amount processed in Nelson.
The company is also cutting the number of salaried staff it has. The moves are part of a three-year strategy to focus on higher yielding parts of the business.
"Sealord's core business unit, its New Zealand based fishing operations, has been earning returns significantly below cost of capital for several years," said Stuart.
The company wanted to develop new wild and farmed fish markets and grow its business in Australia.
Assistant national secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, Neville Donaldson said Sealord had "just demanded that their employees must accept a reduction in wages to increase profits or face dismissal."
"Sealord intends to lay off around 160 staff immediately, and have indicated to us that they may close the processing plant in the near future unless staff agree to what is effectively a $70 a week cut in wages across the board." said Donaldson.
"At a time when most business are saying they are prepared to make less profits in order to secure employment, Sealord have demanded that workers increase the company profits by $1.8 million through wage and condition cuts."
"If staff don't agree to the proposed cut in wages and conditions within the three week consultation process, Sealord management have advised us that the board may take an option to close the processing facility in Nelson which currently employs over 500 workers"
Donaldson said Sealord was "an iconic New Zealand company" and high-level discussions were needed urgently to stop the situation getting any worse.
"Given the commitment from the Job Summit we are expecting immediate support from the Government to save these jobs".
- NZPA/HERALD ONLINE