Sixty-eight jobs will be lost in Whanganui with carpet maker Cavalier Bremworth announcing it is consolidating a major part of its operation in Napier.
The company confirmed yesterday it was moving the spinning lines from its factory in Leamington St, Castlecliff, to the Hawke's Bay, a move that should be finalised by October.
As well as the major changes in Whanganui, the company announced it would be closing its Christchurch felting plant with 36 job losses. The felting operation would shift to Whanganui, a move which would retain employment for 40 staff here.
The spinning operation started in the mid-1970s and some of the staff who started then are still working there.
Paul Alston, Cavalier Bremworth's chief executive officer, told the Chronicle the decision was not made lightly but it came down to a matter of volumes and logistics for the business.
"Consolidating the spinning operation in Napier means 39 extra jobs will be created and staff at both Whanganui and Christchurch will be able to apply for those jobs."
Kay Hearfield, FIRST Union organiser in Whanganui, said the news was a "bombshell" for staff when it was broken to them yesterday afternoon.
"I've been speaking to the members and, as you can appreciate, it's been a very stressful time for them. There are definitely a number of long-serving staff here who have been absolutely reliable and given great service to the company. It's been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for them."
Mr Alston said the company had considered shifting all the yarn spinning to Whanganui, "but the site simply isn't big enough".
"The other thing favouring Napier is there's a wool scouring plant next door, which means we're not faced with transporting the yarn to Whanganui. The point is Napier can handle the volumes."
He said the changes came on the back of a review of its manufacturing processes and market trends.
"Demand for woollen carpet has decreased over the last decade and, as a result, we now have excess wool spinning capacity across our Whanganui and Napier plants. In addition, we have felted yarn capacity constraints at our Christchurch plant.
"We're undertaking consultations with all the staff and working through that. I'm aware some workers have been with us in Whanganui for a long time. Some might consider reapplying for jobs, but for others the time may be right for them to take redundancy," Mr Alston said.
He said one felting line was already in place at the Castlecliff plant and the rest of the machinery from Christchurch would eventually be installed here.
Mr Alston said Cavalier Bremworth was "very aware" of the impact the proposed changes would have on staff and where possible would be offering relocation opportunities. "This will be tough for all of our staff, particularly the impacted ones, but we need to future-proof our business to provide ongoing stability and profitability."
Two years ago, the company's then-CEO told the Chronicle the Whanganui plant was a "strategic asset" and would remain so for Cavalier Corporation.
Until yesterday's announcement, the Leamington St plant had taken scoured wool then dyed and spun it to produce yarn for residential carpets and semi-worsted yarn which is finer and stronger and used for commercial grade carpets.
The felted yarn that the Whanganui plant will produce is used in higher-end Cavalier Bremworth carpets because it's softer and more durable.