McCain Foods Considers NZ Plant's Future

Published online: Aug 16, 2004
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McCain Foods has told staff at its potato processing plant in Fielding, 100 miles north of Wellington, New Zealand's capitol city, that after three years of poor potato crops the company was considering the plant's future.

In the meantime McCain said it would cut its ages bill by 23 percent with some workers losing shift work allowances and overtime rates and hourly pay rates cut by up to $4.

Managing director Ian Wilmot said in a radio interview that the plant had three bad years of potato crops.

"What we're hoping to do is to hang in there," he said. "What we're doing right at the moment is addressing the issue from the context of its a high-cost factory in an unreliable growing area."

Some 100 workers at the plant--members of the Engineering, Printing, and Manufacturing Union--unanimously rejected the McCain plan.

"When McCain purchased that plant from Heinz Watties a few years ago they promised two things," a union spokesman said. "First that they wouldn't diminish or deteriorate wages and conditions and secondly that they would invest in new technology for the plant.

"If McCains hadn't agreed to retain existing rates, Watties would have had to make the entire workforce redundant and the plant asking price would have been much higher."

The union said it would continue negotiations with the company.