Sanford staff are adjusting to a new reality after the company announced the closure of the plant yesterday with the loss of 66 jobs.
Long-standing employee Ken O'Sullivan, who has been made redundant from his fish filleting tutor job, said the reality of the closure and job losses including his own, was still sinking in.
Ninety-per cent of the affected staff's reaction was fairly "muted", he said.
"But a lot of these guys don't say a lot anyway and they're not the sort of people to moan and groan about their lot, and many just want to get on with it," he said.
"They're a great bunch of guys who I loved working with, respect and admire and it's the close camaraderie that I will miss the most, "he said.
O'Sullivan said he could not fault Sanford's handling of the closure and redundancy process.
"Sanford is a very moralistic company which is bending over backwards to ensure all the affected staff are well looked after and well prepared to re-enter the job market."
This including offering psychological counselling, financial planning and job-seeking skills and glossy CVs, and references, he said.
"Those who have worked here the longest are being very well remunerated," he said.
However, O'Sullivan said the reality was finding another job at the time when lots of other people were also job searching would not be easy.
General manager of Sanford's corporate communications, Fiona MacMillan told the Bay of Plenty Times of the closure decision after the company held meetings with affected staff yesterday. "Sadly because of Covid-19 restrictions it was not possible for our CEO, chief operating officer and chief people officer to be there in person, so they had to join these meetings by a video link.
"We announced that the closure of the Tauranga plant is going ahead," MacMillan said
Sanford Limited's chief executive officer Volker Kuntzsch announced the proposed closure on August 5, which he said, at the time, could result in the loss of 65 jobs.
Chief operating officer Clement Chia earlier said the company had installed a second processing line at the end of last year and planning for a strong future in Tauranga.
Chia said at the time the decision was based on a number of factors but two were key.
"The combination of the fish processing arrangements hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and seismic engineering reports showed the site was not viable in the long-term," he said.
"We would have needed to rebuild or move out within the next few years. The pandemic has unfortunately shortened that timeline."
MacMillian said the company had received "some very helpful and constructive" feedback
from staff and were able to incorporate that into the process, for example, by extending the time available for consultation feedback.
"Because of that feedback, the final number of roles impacted by the closure decision is 66 people, after some specific feedback about one role which was going to be an ongoing part-time role not being required.
"Eleven staff will be staying on at the site and a number of jobs which remain as we will be retaining Tauranga as an important landing site for Sanford."
MacMillan said staff impacted by the decision and made redundant have been invited to attend workshops in CV writing, interview and job-seeking skills and more which the company would be providing.
This included looking for roles within Sanford, one-on-one financial advice through our EAP service (Employee Assistance Programme), and connecting staff with other potential employers both locally and outside the region in some cases, she said.
The final day of work for impacted staff will be on Friday, August 21, and filleting operations had already stopped at the site and they would not recommence, she said.
"It is a very sad day for Sanford and for our people in Tauranga most of all. So many of them have given many years of service and they have been incredibly professional and constructive throughout this difficult process," MacMillan said.
"They will be a great addition to any local business which is looking for good people. "
"This has been a very difficult decision for us to make, but one we feel is best to secure our future operations in the North Island.
"We will ensure that those affected by this change will have the best support to find alternative employment elsewhere in the Sanford business and we will be working with local businesses to find local opportunities also."
Sanford's chief executive Kuntzsch said he was also saddened to have to close the plant.
"Landing and unloading will continue at the Tauranga site. We are pleased to still have a presence in Tauranga, which has been an important base for us.
"However, we are sorry to say goodbye to many of our team, including several who have worked for Sanford for three or more decades. We do have a great team to support them find other opportunities as soon as possible."
Sanford said it had no intention of closing any of its other processing bases.