Macraes workers’ future remains unclear

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Uncertainty is in the air at Macraes Goldfields as workers wait to find out the impact of coming job losses on workers and the community, Amalgamated Workers Union secretary Calvin Fisher says.

The union had been having meetings with the goldfield’s owners, OceanaGold, to deal with the situation, he said.

Mr Fisher said the company had been extremely supportive towards everyone and was dealing with the issue well.

“It’s an extremely anxious and sobering time.”

Staff had to reapply for their jobs, with positions being formally disestablished earlier in the month, Mr Fisher said.

He was aware of staff deciding not to re-apply for jobs.

With a large portion of the goldfield’s workers coming from the Palmerston-Waikouaiti area, job losses could potentially hurt those areas badly, but until the final job losses were decided, the true impact would not be known, Mr Fisher said.

“It’s going to have an ongoing impact.”

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said people in the Palmerston-Waikouaiti area felt conflicted about the situation.

With about half of the goldfield’s workforce coming from that area, there was some uncertainty about job prospects, but also “reasonable optimism” the situation was only short-term, Mr Kircher said.

People were hoping gold prices would increase to encourage OceanaGold to maintain full employment, he said.

With the current low prices of gold around the world, the situation was “not totally unexpected” by workers though, Mr Kircher said.

However, people around the Palmerston-Waikouaiti area generally seemed to be “taking it in their stride”.

Long term, new job prospects for the Palmerston-Waikouaiti area needed to be found and the job cuts at the goldfields would act as a catalyst for that, Mr Kircher said.

Waitaki District Waihemo Ward councillor Kathy Dennison said the true impact of Macraes Goldfield’s job cuts would be known in due time.

“It really is just a case of wait and see.”

People around the area were concerned about job prospects in the area and were unsure what could fill the gaps created but were trying to remain positive, she said.

The first job losses are set to take place on Friday, January 17 when Gough Group contractors’ positions at the goldfields are terminated.

About 39 workers are set to lose their jobs when OceanaGold’s contract with Gough Group terminates on Friday.

More job losses are expected to follow at Macraes Goldfield as OceanaGold seeks to lower staff costs.

OceanaGold senior financial analyst Nova Young said about 25 per cent of the about 560 workers would be impacted by the “re-optimised” mine plan.

“The company will continue to consult with employees at Macraes and other relevant third parties and discuss alternative arrangements with employees directly impacted.

“Following the consultation, a final decision regarding the number of jobs impacted will be made later this month.”

By DAVID DE LOREAN