Last week staff at Cadbury plants in Australia and New Zealand were called to meetings to be told of the 330 redundancies, which are coupled with $153 million of capital investment across the factories to simplify chocolate-making operations.
The company plans to cut 145 jobs from its Dunedin factory, 160 in Tasmania and 25 in Victoria.
New Zealand’s Service and Food Workers Union southern regional secretary, Campbell Duignan, who was not at the Dunedin meeting, said he thought workers would be stunned by the cuts.
“I don’t think anyone would have picked this we were only advised today of a meeting being held, so to some extent it’s a bolt from the blue.”
He described the announcement as a “mixed bag.”
“We’re absolutely gutted for 145 hard-working Dunedin people, who will lose their employment … (but) the capital investment of more than $50m, I’d have to say, for the long-term security of the plant, it’s not a bad thing.”
Cadbury Schweppes managing director of confectionery, Mark Callaghan, said the job losses were needed to compete in the extremely competitive sector.
A final decision on the proposal will be made late next month, following consultation, and workers were expected to be laid off from the beginning of next year until the end of 2010.
The factories each make multiple products now but, after the restructuring, will specialise in certain chocolate products. Dunedin will concentrate on assortments and box chocolates, while bars and blocks will be imported from Australia.
“Hopefully, it’s good news, the fact we’re committed to staying here, we’re saying it’s a viable future here, will put a lot of people’s minds to rest,” company spokesman Daniel Ellis said.
Cadbury recently spent $20m expanding its Dunedin plant to tap into exports to Asia, which the company said in 2006 would create 10 to 15 new jobs initially, and more as exports grew. It also spent $10m moving equipment from its Avondale factory.
This year, Cadbury denied rumours it was closing its Dunedin plant.
That followed focus groups run by the company in Christchurch in March, at which participants were asked if they noticed a difference in taste between chocolate made in Australia and New Zealand and would they mind eating Australian chocolate.
In April, Cadbury Schweppes’ Melbourne-based corporate affairs manager, Robyn Newman, dismissed the research had any hidden meaning, saying the company regularly conducted that type of research in Australia and New Zealand.