Job cuts at Heinz Wattie's Hastings plant could represent a major blow to Hawke's Bay, local Labour MPs say, but the organiser of the plant's biggest on-site union disagrees.

Heinz Wattie's announced last month it was implementing a new structure for its Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand businesses to make the company more flexible and efficient.

A total of 245 employees across the three countries would be affected by the changes. Heinz Wattie's said 100 jobs would be lost throughout New Zealand.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti Labour MP Meka Whaitiri said yesterday the region was lacking in employment opportunities for the Wattie's staff who might be made redundant.


"I know a number of the Wattie's staff and these job losses will be acutely felt by communities up and down the Bay. Unfortunately, there just aren't the jobs in Hawke's Bay to soak up dozens of redundant workers. I really feel for the workers and their whanau at this time.

Meanwhile, Napier Labour MP Stuart Nash supported Ms Whaitiri.

"This is a hugely important issue for our local communities, and this is not the way that we do business in New Zealand. And it is hardly the way that an iconic New Zealand brand builds relationships with key stakeholders.

"The best way to alleviate the ills of poverty is work. We must put aside our political differences and work together, National and Labour members, local and central government officials, because only then will we optimise our chances of success."

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford also agreed Bay communities could be hard hit by the job cuts.

"If those jobs are going to be lost, they will make a huge impact on the community and the economic environment. But at the end of the day, the business needs to meet its KPIs [key performance indicators]. We need to be looking at ways to market and entice other businesses here, to create diversity in opportunities for jobs."

However, BUG (Bay Union Group) Union organiser John Young, who says that with more than 300 members his is the largest on-site union at Wattie's Hastings operation, claimed Ms Whaitiri and Mr Nash were exaggerating the issue.

He knew of about six Hawke's Bay staff who had lost their jobs in the restructuring but those were white collar workers and none of his union's members were affected.


"The company's just being really prudent and trying to find the right model. It was always a bit top-heavy."

Mr Young said he was "optimistic" about the future of Wattie's in Hastings and the job cuts had not made a big impact on the plant.

"It doesn't affect anyone on the shop floor."