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Slippery slope to tomorrow
Tough times: Andrew Smith, one of 300 laid
off in Waipukurau last week, taking stock of
his next move.
By VIVIENNE HALDANE
On a Friday afternoon, Andrew Smith is
standing in his driveway, looking a little at
a loose end. Usually at this time, he d be
finishing his shift at Ovation boning plant
I ask: How are you? But I don t expect
him to say how he truly feels. I imagine it s
not his favourite week.
The 45-year-old maintenance and
diagnostics engineer was told the previous
day that his job of 26 years had gone west.
Today I decided to take the day off, he
says by way of explanation.
A day off in which to contemplate his
next step perhaps, or just to let soak in
what s happened, or maybe he thinks:
He d just taken his wife, Joanne, to work.
Last year when jobs were being cut at the
meat processing plant, she fortunately
opted to find something else.
It would have been a double blow for
their household if she hadn t.
Their daughter, Stacey-Lee, used to work
at Ovation and son, Aaron, currently works
there, so there s a question mark over his
Without doubt, the impact of the loss of
300 jobs on the Central Hawke s Bay busi-
ness community will begin to sting some-
time soon. It has already felt the the loss of
175 jobs at the same facility last year.
Actually, to be quite honest, I feel a bit
like the long term prisoner who has been let
out, he says, trying cheerfully to see an
We had an inkling it was going to hap-
pen, so it s a bit of a relief. But it s very
scary as well.
He s sitting in his favourite spot in the
lounge in a comfortable La-Z-Boy chair. On
the wall behind there s a display of framed
sports awards and family photos. Across
the room, a massive home theatre screen
flicks colour distractingly across the room.
It s scary to be cut loose from a well-
paying job and doubly so because it s the
only work place he s ever known.
In 1985 Mr Smith (then 19 years old)
started work at Bernard Matthews, as it
was formerly known. Back then, the
purpose-built facility was in full swing.
Those were good years, with a national
lamb kill of 40 million a year. Now it is less
than half that.
For the young married father with a wife
and a family to support, a steady income
was peace of mind. They could relax,
knowing that they had a good future ahead.
Joanne worked there for 20 years. It was
hard raising a family and us both doing
shift work, he says, but the family-oriented
couple buckled down and made it happen.
In 1995 he moved from the boning room to the workshop. His skill with machinery
was noticed and in 2000, the company
offered him an adult apprenticeship. It was
a chance he grabbed with both hands. I
woke up to the fact that I was getting older
and needed a qualification, just in case this
sort of thing happened, he says, with a
tinge of irony.
It was a challenge though. It s a lot
harder to do an apprenticeship as an
While holding down his job he filled all
his spare hours studying through corre-
spondence. Gaining his qualification was a
good move financially and gave him a per-
manent job, which had previously been
seasonal. But yesterday it didn t matter
which department you were in. If there s
nothing there, there s nothing there, he
says with a shrug.
I feel sorry for the younger ones and
those with young families. I know what it s
like when you ve got a family. It s hard.
The company has been good to him
though, he says, and recent events have
simply spelled out what many knew was on
I think they went about it in a good way
-- it put a lot of people s mind at ease.
There s been a lot of whispers over the last
couple of years about what was happening.
It s a shock for me, after being there for
all that time.
At work we ve had good times and bad.
I ve seen people leave and come back again,
in some cases, three times.
For now he s going to sit down with
Joanne and talk about what the future
holds for them. I m not going to make any
hasty decisions, he says. Fortunately he s
got a marketable skill.
The inevitable question is would they go
to Australia as so many others have done?
We ve discussed Australia, but as we are
now grandparents -- if we go, they are going
to have to go too. I can t see Joanne leaving
I wish him well and a good weekend: I
think I might go fishing, he replies.
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