A proposal by a timber giant to whittle down operation at its Northland plant to four days a week could result in 70 per cent of workers losing their jobs, a union fears.

Carter Holt Harvey last week announced a restructure of its Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) plant in Marsden Pt into a smaller domestically focused operation that has put 325 jobs at stake.

The decision followed the closure early this year of the company's Whangārei sawmill, which employed 111 staff and contributed $5 million to the local economy.

E tū union represents 150 workers at the LVL plant and a meeting with the company is scheduled for Tuesday next week.


The union's Northland representative, Annie Tothill (pictured below), said that, under the restructure, CHH was proposing to operate the LVL plant four days a week instead of 24 hours a day as at present.

Annie Tothill, of E tū union, is representing 150 workers whose jobs at Carter Holt Harvey's LVL plant are up in the air. Photo / John Stone
Annie Tothill, of E tū union, is representing 150 workers whose jobs at Carter Holt Harvey's LVL plant are up in the air. Photo / John Stone

"The plant is designed to operate on a 24/7 basis and a four-day week will mean up to 70 per cent of the workers will have to go. At the moment, they are doing four days on, four days off.

"Some people work during the day but a majority of them are on shift work and they do 12-hour shifts from 7am to 7pm for three days, then they have a 24-hour turnaround, before starting work again.

"So it's quite gruelling anyway. I think most would tolerate a change, provided they have an ability to earn a reasonable income, [rather] than for their jobs to disappear," she said.


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Tothill said she has had four meetings with her members to discuss the proposal and that CHH has withheld some information, citing commercial sensitivity.

CHH declined to comment on the restructuring proposal while consultation was ongoing.

Tothill said rather than give up on the overseas market, CHH should invest money towards research and development and look at innovative ways of doing business.


The company is owned by billionaire businessman and New Zealand's richest man Graeme Hart.

CHH chief executive Praful Kesha had blamed the restructure on the unprofitable export side of the LVL business, which accounted for about 70 per cent of the production and sales volume, saying the business could not continue in its current format.

The cost of raw materials and a consistently high New Zealand dollar compared to the Australian dollar have had a major impact on exports.

A final decision on whether a restructure or a complete shutdown was the preferred option would be made after feedback was considered.