Sanford likely to cut 230 workers from Christchurch seafood factory

Fishing group Sanford is likely to cut 230 workers from its Christchurch mussel processing plant because of a shortage of natural spat supply.

The New Zealand Herald reports that management met with employees at the plant yesterday to deliver the bad news and said a final decision will be made by April 20.

Sanford Chief Executive Volker Kuntzsch said there is a shortage of natural spat (young mussels) because of warm water and unfavourable weather conditions.

"Wild spat supply is the single biggest constraint on the mussel industry with current spat shortages limiting future crop supply. In the long term Sanford's recent investment with government, industry and research organisations in the selective breeding of mussels (will alleviate the industry's reliance on wild caught spat,” Kuntzsch said.

“However, at this stage it is not anticipated that these initiatives will boost crop supply to levels where Sanford's South Island plants are able to be efficiently utilised for the next two to three years."

Stuff.co.nz reports that Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU), which represents the workers, will meet Sanford next week to try to extend the timeline for talks and secure favourable exit packages.

SFWU representative Chas Muir said he did not expect many staff would take up the offer to relocate because of family reasons and because many have houses damaged by the Christchurch earthquake which not be of much value on the market.

"We have gone out to a whole lot of other industries and organisations to let them know about this, so they will be aware there is now a food grade processing facility available with spare capacity,” Muir said.

"I guess there's always a possibility that an opportunity comes out of the woodwork … to utilise this facility, whether they be mussels from another source or … some other kind of food product or seafood product."