One week's pay and many families already suffering

George Ruha has six kids, a mortgage and, as of last week, no job.

"It's going to be tough for a lot of us. Some of the crew came back from Aussie to work here. A few of them have just bought houses and cars. We all have bills to pay and in a few weeks that money will run out," the former Lumbercube worker told the Rotorua Daily Post.

Mr Ruha, the E Tu union delegate for the site, said staff were still looking for answers from the mill's owners as to why it shut so suddenly last week with the loss of 71 jobs. He said staff were still coming to terms with the shock closure with some starting to struggle to pay their bills while they look for new jobs.

"One guy has a wife and eight kids, another guy with five kids and another guy whose wife has just been diagnosed with cancer, and he's the only bread winner in his house."


He said when staff heard the mill was to be closed last Thursday they were stunned and in total silence. "It didn't sink in until the weekend for a lot of the guys, it was right out of the blue.

"We had been told prior that everything was running well and the mill was not closing, we were going forward and it was all looking good.

"There was an initial feeling of frustration and anger that was directed more toward management for lack of communication. We expected more warning.

"Then our focus shifted toward the directors at [owners] Maui Capital, they haven't come down or given us any answers. Now the majority of management are just as screwed as us."

Mr Ruha said no staff had additional redundancy clauses in their contracts as they were looking to add them during future employment negotiations.

"It's just the bare minimum."

While he said the offer by Lumbercube management to help find jobs for former staff was appreciated, much of the skilled work was in places such as Tauranga, Tokoroa or Kawerau and many workers did not want to travel two hours each day to get to jobs out of Rotorua.

"I'm still in discussions with the wife about work, with my skillset I'd have to look at moving and I'm not really keen on that."

He said what made the situation more frustrating was the fact workers did all they could to make the mill successful.

"The effort we all put in starting up this mill from day one does not compare to the effort they have put into us when we all lost our jobs.

"There wasn't one person there bitching about their job, it was a good feeling, the atmosphere was a family atmosphere and it showed, we all worked really hard."

He said he had no complaints about his former job. "It was damn good pay, probably one of the better paid mills in the Bay I think. I can't remember any disputes at all between staff members, it was a nice place to work."

He said staff were paid wages for the week they were laid off, but were hoping for a month's pay.

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner for Bay of Plenty Michael Bryant said his staff were working closely with Lumbercube to find other jobs.

"We've had two or three employers call to tell us about jobs they have. As a collective, we are trying to work together with the workers and have provided a lot of information through Lumbercube for those guys.

"They are a skilled workforce and there are a lot of jobs out there for those workers."

Lumbercube is organising a job fair for its former employees this week, to meet major forestry employers and help with things such as preparing a CV.

Lumbercube owners Maui Capital did not respond to a request for comment for this story.