Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Bic weighs drawing line through 19 factory jobs

'Made in New Zealand' may end up disappearing from these well-known pens. Photo / NZ Herald
'Made in New Zealand' may end up disappearing from these well-known pens. Photo / NZ Herald

The words "Made in New Zealand" will disappear from Bic ballpoint pens if the company's cost-saving proposal to shift manufacturing overseas goes ahead.

Hawked by Kiwi showbiz legends Sir Howard Morrison and Ray Woolf on television ads throughout the 1970s, the pens were known for their catchphrase: "So pick the one that's right for you - the Bic things in life cost so little."

Sir Howard Morrison advertised Bic pens. Photo / NZPA
Sir Howard Morrison advertised Bic pens. Photo / NZPA

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) organiser Louisa Jones said Bic, which has a factory in Auckland's Mt Eden, would begin importing the pens into this country from South Africa if the plan becomes a reality.

Bic, which has its headquarters in France, had begun a consultation period with manufacturing staff but around 19 jobs were likely to be gone by early next year, the union said.

Ms Jones said the company's decision was disappointing.

"We're just seeing a continuing pattern of manufacturing jobs going offshore," she said.

"It's going to be very hard [for the Bic workers] to find similar work given the state the sector is in. Over the last four years, 40,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared and we know from experience that many of these workers have ended up in low paid, insecure service jobs."

Ms Jones said the average age of the affected Bic workers was about 50. "They didn't see this coming," she said. "It's obviously very shocking for them."

Bic confirmed its proposal to close its Mt Eden factory.

The company said it would continue other operations in Auckland, including sales, warehousing and logistics.

"We understand this is a difficult time for our staff and apologise for any distress caused," said Peter Travers, general manager of Bic Oceania. "We are committed to supporting our staff throughout this process."

Founded in 1945, Bic is one of the world's most recognisable consumer brands and reported net sales of €1.9 billion ($3.1 billion) last year. In addition to pens, its products include lighters, shavers and stationery.

Bic's New Zealand operation posted total revenue of $20 million for the 12 months to December 31, 2012, down from $21 million in the previous year, according to its latest financial statements lodged with the Companies Office. Profit fell to $979,036 last year from $1.6 million in 2011.

19 jobs likely to be gone by early next year

1945 the company was founded

50 average age of the affected Bic workers

•Bic's products also include lighters, shavers and stationery. The pens will be imported from South Africa.

- NZ Herald

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