17 Dec 2010

Timber mill job cut timing defended

4:07 pm on 17 December 2010

The managing director of Winstone Pulp International is defending the timing of job cuts at its Tangiwai Sawmill near Ohakune.

Forty permanent production workers and 40 temporary staff, management and contractors were told on Thursday they would be losing their jobs at WPI International's Tangiwai Sawmill near Ohakune.

Managing director David Anderson says the company has been holding out and hoping the New Zealand dollar would drop along with log prices - but neither of those things has happened.

He says the industry is being squeezed between the high price of raw logs and the low price people are willing to pay for processed timber.

Mr Anderson says there is never a good time to tell people they no longer have work.

The job losses follow announcements of a 30 staff cuts at WPI's Prime Sawmill in Gisborne, and of 27 job losses at Carter Holt Harvey Wood Products sawmill in Kawerau.

National Distribution Union general secretary Robert Reid says the New Zealand timber industry is in crisis, because processors are having to pay a high price for the raw product, which is fetching record international prices, while returns for processed wood products are very low.

He says the Government must step in and rescue the timber industry as it helped the Hobbit movies.

The union says the compulsory redundancies will not take effect until after Christmas.

Federation rejects claim industry in crisis

The Timber Industry Federation rejects the claim the industry in crisis, saying the redundancies affect only a small part of the industry specialising in low-quality industrial packaging.

Federation president Howard Tonge says international demand for the packaging has fallen, but there is still demand from some countries for high-quality wood products.

He says jobs lost at some sawmills could be reinstated when Russia resumes supplying China with timber and the price of logs fall.

Mr Tonge says Russia has signalled its intention to join the World Trade Organisation and remove export duties from its logs.

He says historically, sawmill workers made redundant Gisborne, Kawerau and Tangiwai tend not to leave the regions and could be re-employed as market conditions improve.