25 redundancies from government’s Plant and Food company

Report from Quentin Clarkson
About 25 people are to be made redundant from the government’s science company Plant and Food because of a drop in staff retiring or resigning and industry funding cuts, says a company spokesman.

Plant and Food senior communications advisor Mike Shaw has confirmed that about 25 people are to be made redundant from the Crown Research Institute (CRI) in a few weeks.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that it would be significantly different from that. It might be say a couple either side,” Mr Shaw said. “It could be significantly lower, it could be a few higher.”

Plant and Food’s website states that Auckland has about 300 staff, Lincoln has about 240 and Palmerston North has about 160. There are 15 Plant and Food sites throughout the country.

Public Service Association organiser for Plant and Food, Chris Moore, said the proposed redundancies were not related to the Government’s announcement on 15 March to to create a Ministry of business, innovation and employment from the merger of the science and innovation ministry, the economic development ministry, the department of labour and the the department of building and housing.

“No, they wouldn’t have been,” he said. “At the moment they (Plant and Food) haven’t made the decisions on who will actually go. They are in that process at the moment, but everything becomes finalised on 17 April,” Mr Moore said. He said did not have further details about the proposed redundancies.

But he was happy about the consultation process Plant and Food carried out with the affected employees. “”I can’t complain about any lack of knowledge because we had reasonable warning, and had support structures in place for people,” Mr Moore said.

Mr Shaw said the number of people being made redundant had not been finalised yet but the final number of redundancies were being worked out by human resources staff.

“It’s in this HR process at the moment so it’s hard to tell,” he said.

Mr Shaw said that Plant and Food had told everyone affected by the redundancies. Decisions about when they would leave their jobs after the redundancies were finalised would be made on a “case-by-case basis”, he said.

Most of the redundancies would occur at Plant and Food’s biggest sites at Auckland, Lincoln (near Christchurch) and Palmerston North, Mr Shaw said.

Plant and Food employed over 900 staff, so the redundancies were a relatively small HR change, he said.

Mr Shaw said the redundancies were being made because the rate of people taking retirement or resigning was “historically very very low, so we’ve ended up with more staff and we haven’t had the natural turnover that we would have had”.

Half of Plant and Food’s funding came from the government and the other half came from industry, Mr Shaw said.

He said a second reason for the redundancies was that industry – and particularly the Kiwifruit industry – had less money to put towards research from Plant and Food at present because of the costs associated with developing kiwifruit that were resistant to the bacterial disease PSA.

Plant and Food is a New Zealand-based science company formed in December 2008 through the merger of HortResearch and Crop & Food Research. Plant and Food also has staff in Australia and the United States.

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