The threatened closure of Silver Fern Farms’ Fairton Plant in Ashburton raises serious questions about the Government’s support of the sale of half of the company to a foreign company, when it appears this outcome may have been inevitable, says Labour’s Regional Development spokesperson Stuart Nash.
“At the time of the sale in September last year, the decision-making Ministers Louise Upston and Paula Bennett said they were ‘satisfied that the purchase would create substantial and identifiable benefit for New Zealand’.
“The 300 hard-working Kiwis who face losing their jobs, or at least massive uncertainty, would disagree with that assessment.
“Media reports reveal that Silver Fern Farms told Shanghai Maling of their intention to close the Fairton Plant while telling the opposite to New Zealand shareholders and the public. It’s a murky situation and Kiwi workers will be paying the price.
“Under the terms of the sale, the Overseas Investment Office recommended to the Ministers that Shanghai Maling be approved to buy half of Silver Fern Farms because it would lead to more investment in their plant network and that ‘the existing meat processing operations will remain in New Zealand’.
“It’s hard to see how the closure of a meat-processing plant and the major upheaval this causes to both the plant workers, the local economy and to the Ashburton community is consistent with those terms.
“The Government said the sale would add value, and Shanghai Maling promised as much in its OIO application, but the company is breaking promises and closing down Fairton before the ink is even dry on the contract.
“The Government has dropped the ball on this sale and Kiwi workers will be getting the chop. Ministers must hold the OIO to account and demand they ensure this investor meets its promises made in the application process.
“It’s absolutely essential that the Government makes sure the workers are treated with fairness and respect, and given every assistance they need to transition into other jobs or receive the appropriate redundancy payouts.
“The whole process also highlights just how important Labour’s Future of Work programme is. There will be a lot of uncertainty facing workers, so it’s absolutely critical that they’re ready for change and prepared for the future,” says Stuart Nash.