Job cuts at OceanaGold’s Macraes Goldfields could see up to 106 people out of work by January 20, Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand secretary Calvin Fisher says.
OceanaGold announced job losses to workers at a meeting in Palmerston on Tuesday night.
OceanaGold senior financial analyst Nova Young said about 25 per cent of the company’s approximately 560 full employees, which included contractors, would be affected.
“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.”
The company did not comment on the specific number of jobs affected or the date by which workers would have to reapply.
A report released to media detailed how, due to the falling price of gold, OceanaGold was working to reduce the cost of running the mine.
The report stated there will be a reduction in the total material movement schedule to ensure there is lower usage of equipment and less staff requirements at the mine over the next two years.
At the current gold price, the Macraes Open Pit has a mine life until the end of 2017 and Frasers Underground mine to mid-2015.
OceanaGold managing director and CEO Mick Wilkes said the changes were necessary for the company to continue operations at Macraes Goldfield.
“The Macraes Goldfield has been operating continuously for over 23 years producing over 3.8 million ounces of gold,” he said.
“During its life, Macraes has been a major employer and contributor to the Otago region and local economy.
“The continuing lower gold price has necessitated the need to make changes to our business to ensure a sustainable operation at Macraes. Unfortunately these changes will also have an impact on some of our workforce and contractors.”
Mr Wilkes said he wished to thank and acknowledge those affected by job losses for their contribution to OceanaGold.
Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand secretary Calvin Fisher said the director of OceanaGold had identified 106 positions that would be cut to him.
Mr Fisher said he believed there was potential for further job losses.
The announcement of job losses was “pretty devastating” for workers.
Workers were required to reapply for their jobs and would find out on January 20 which of them will lose their positions, he said.
Workers were not allowed to speak to media, but Mr Fisher said there was a “sense of unfairness” felt by everyone.
“There’s a lot of worried people.”
Mr Fisher said OceanaGold was working hard to keep the mine open and employing about 400 people, and was doing well in the face of falling gold prices.
“This is a global phenomenon, all the other mines have been affected by falling prices.”
OceanaGold were doing what they could to stabilise the job situation at Macraes Goldfields and ensure its continued operation, Mr Fisher said.
“That’s a pretty progressive thing to have occurring.”
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the district would do everything possible to look after those people losing their jobs.
“Job losses can be devastating . . . I definitely feel for the people.”
With about half of the current workforce coming from the Palmerston-Waikouaiti area, the effects would be felt most there, Mr Kircher said.
While the job losses would hurt the area, Mr Kircher said he was hopeful about the medium-term prospects for workers in the area.
There were opportunities in farming and tourism in the Palmerston-Waikouaiti area and a good number of the work force’s skills will be in demand from other employers.
People would not fall through the gaps, Mr Kircher said.
The relatively low price of gold meant OceanaGold was forced to make staff cuts, he said.
“They’re doing what they have to do . . . to get them through this short-term price situation.”
Mr Kircher said he was hoping for an increase in the price of gold.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said she was concerned at the long-term viability of Macraes Mine.
The company had assured her they were confident of continuing operations at the mine for the next four years, but after that period they were not sure, she said.
The impending job losses were bad for Waitaki, Mrs Dean said.
“I think it is pretty devastating . . . for the individuals who will be losing their jobs.
“It is going to have an impact on us as a community.”
With workers not knowing until January 20 whether they had a job or not, the uncertainty was bad for people in the area, Mrs Dean said.
“It is significant and concerning for our region.”
Mrs Dean said she was confident the workers who lose their jobs would be looked after.
“I am hopeful they are going to find work.”
The Otago economy in general was doing well and redundancy packages from OceanaGold, as well as potential help from Work and Income, based on the response from Work and Income to the lay-offs at Summit Wool Spinners in 2013, would ensure people were looked after, Mrs Dean said.
She was hopeful about the future of Macraes Mine.
“It provides huge employment opportunities for our region and I hope in the future it does so again.”
By DAVID DE LOREAN
PHOTO: DAVID DE LOREAN
FEELING THE IMPACT: The workers at Macraes Goldfields feeling the impact of impending job cuts will not fall through the gaps, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.