4 Oct 2013

Jobs under threat as meat company makes changes

7:54 am on 4 October 2013

Jobs are on the line as the country's biggest meat processor, Silver Fern Farms, makes adjustments to its North Island operations.

The co-operative is making changes as the new season gets underway with the prospect of lower stock numbers from the summer drought.

Silver Fern is consolidating beef processing in Waikato and negotiating to sell its skin processing plant near Shannon.

The firm is considering an offer from the Lowe Corporation to buy the ageing Shannon fellmongery, which employs more than 80 workers.

Lowe Corporation has a modern pelt processing plant at Tomoana in Hastings and, if the sale goes ahead, Silver Fern would get its skin processing done there instead.

The company has asked staff at the Shannon plant for their ideas on alternatives before a final decision is made, but has acknowledged that if the sale goes ahead, the plant there is likely to become redundant.

In Waikato, Silver Fern is not reducing its beef processing capacity, but consolidating it at the recently commissioned Te Aroha plant.

It says with that site at full capacity, it's unlikely it will need the Waitoa plant, only 10 kilometres away, to process beef this season.

It is proposing instead to use Waitoa just for bobby calf processing this year, and that's also going to mean fewer jobs.

The co-operative says it has put a proposal to staff to amalgamate the organisational structure of the two plants, with 62 positions based at Te Aroha.

That would mean 17 fewer management staff operating across the two plants.