Redundancies cut to bone as Hutton's factory closes

By Nikki Preston

Glenn Bratton.
Glenn Bratton.

At 49 years old, Glenn Bratton didn't expect to be looking for a new career, but the process worker has no choice after his employer of 16 years confirmed it was closing the Hutton's and Kiwi Bacon factory in Hamilton.

The Te Kauwhata man was among the 125 employees in shock yesterday after learning they would be jobless from March 31 when Goodman Fielder sold its sausage and bacon business to Christchurch-based meat manufacturer Hellers. The sale is for the brands only.

The deal was confirmed after owner Goodman Fielder rejected four alternative options presented by First Union, which represents 96 of the 125 workers.

The company had extended the consultation process by two weeks to reconsider a repackaged bid by the pork industry, but a Goodman Fielder representative said the company did not believe the bidder had the financial capacity to complete the deal.

Mr Bratton said staff were angry a 100-year-old business was being closed.

"I'm actually pissed off. They have put a 100-year-old company down the tube. They are saying it's a Goodman Fielder plant. You ask someone who Goodman Fielder is and they don't know. You ask someone who Hutton's is and they know."

The meat clerk said he had applied for six jobs in Waikato including working for Fonterra and packing supermarket shelves since the conditional sale of Hutton's was first announced in January. So far he had heard back only from one job.

Mr Bratton's partner Jay Martin was made also made redundant last year and had only been able to get part-time work so money was going to be tight until he found a job.

"We have only got enough money to pay the mortgage, rates and insurance for 12 months. But that's it. With food it is probably six months."

Mr Bratton also pays child support for his 17-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother. He said this was the third time he had been made redundant by companies closing down.

First Union general secretary Robert Reid said the news of the closure had been met with a mixture of huge disappointment and sadness. A representative of Goodman Fielder said both Goodman Fielder and Hellers would work with affected employees who wanted to be redeployed at its other sites across New Zealand. However Mr Bratton, who was the union representative, doubted few staff would take this offer up because they were put off by the cost of housing in Christchurch and thought a commute to Auckland would cost too much in petrol.

First Union and Hamilton city councillors Dave Macpherson, Ewan Wilson and Martin Gallagher have complained to the Commerce Commission about the sale being anti-competitive for the bacon and small pork industry and a covenant being put over the plant so it cannot be used to produce pork and small goods for 10 years. A Commerce Commission spokeswoman confirmed it was assessing the two complaints.

However, Hellers founding director Todd Heller disagreed the deal was anti-competitive. "Goodman Fielder has a small and declining share of the market and there are many other competitors in the smallgoods market."

Job losses

* 125 people are to lose their jobs at the Hutton's and Kiwi Bacon factory in Hamilton.

* Goodman Fielder has sold its sausage and bacon business to Hellers.

* Staff will be without jobs from March 31.

- NZ Herald

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