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44 jobs threatened

Webstar chief executive Bernie Roberts. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Job cuts the latest ‘blow’ to the region

MARCUS ANSELM
[email protected]

Up to 44 jobs have been put at risk after a major printing firm announced plans to halve its Masterton staff numbers.

Webstar chief executive Bernie Roberts told staff on Monday the company was looking to expand its operations in Auckland.

This would see them decommission three printing presses in its Masterton plant, resulting in the loss of up to 44 jobs at its Ngaumutawa Rd site.

Webstar employs more than 80 staff at its plant on Ngaumutawa Rd and another 80 in Auckland.

Jobs would be phased out after the installation of a new printing press in the Auckland factory, set for August 31.

Webstar Masterton operations manager Trevor Howard.

Trevor Howard is the company’s operations manager in Masterton and has been with the company for 20 years.

He said the initial feeling at the plant was one of shock.

“We’ve just got to let our people have time to process it.

“It affects everyone in the factory, and because I’m operations manager I feel part of them.

“I’m sad in a way, but that’s just the nature of my job. I feel for the people who work here.”

George Hollinsworth, negotiation specialist at print union E tu, said it would help staff going through the consultation.

“It would be expected that in regional New Zealand there’s a concern of finding other work in the region.

“Where there’s been a company with a long history in the region, there is that immediate discomfort around any situation like this that leaves the region with a group of people looking for work, if that’s what comes out of this consultation.”

Roberts told its Masterton operation on Monday a week-long consultation period had opened on the plans.

If accepted, the transfer of work would begin immediately.

He said rising shipping and distribution costs were behind the move.

“If the proposal goes ahead, we will retain a profitable printing business in Masterton and will increase our production capacity and staff numbers in Auckland.”

He said it made sense as most of the firm’s customers were based in Auckland.

Webstar prints Wairarapa Times-Age, Wairarapa Midweek and WTA Property, and other supplements.

Roberts said this would not change, as one press would be retained in Masterton

He said there was no intention to close the plant.

“Given the challenges the printing industry faces, we will do our utmost to retain a presence here.”

“We certainly want to continue printing the Times-Age, and all the supplements attached to it, and the Midweek as long as we can.

“We have no plans to close the facility.”

The Times-Age is the firm’s only Wairarapa-based customer, but it produces supplements for papers across the Lower North Island.

Webstar would announce its final decision early next month.

The proposal is the latest in a line of job cuts in Wairarapa.

More than 40 people lost their jobs in October when Greytown’s Arbor House closed its doors.

Last week, HealthCare New Zealand said four Wairarapa jobs were at risk after it announced its intention to move roles to an Auckland call centre.

Wairarapa still open for business

Wairarapa leaders have been quick to say that the area is still open for business after Webstar’s plan to halve its Masterton workforce.

But Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott and Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson both said, although the news was sad, the area still had plenty to offer investors.

Scott said 44 job losses may not sound like a lot, but the effect was significant considering the input to the local economy.

“I can understand that a business needs to run as efficiently and effectively as possible. I understand that a business owner needs to be flexible and needs to move things from time to time.

“But I’m always an optimist, so I still believe Masterton and Wairarapa are attractive to other types of businesses and people.”

Patterson said the news was disappointing but said the district had plenty to offer businesses.

She said it would be tough for the affected staff if the proposal went ahead.

“I can understand Webstar’s need to make decisions to ensure it stays competitive, and remains in business in Masterton, and I hope all options will be explored to keep as many staff working here as possible.”

Former Masterton Mayor Bob Francis said it was positive that the company would retain a presence.

Francis was the district’s mayor during the privatisation of the Government Printing Office, based in Masterton, from 1987 to 1991.

The GPO had moved to Ngaumutawa Rd in 1976.

Francis said the news was disappointing, but it was good that they were staying in Wairarapa and continuing to print.

“The fact they’re staying here and retaining 40-odd jobs is a positive.

“But it’s a real blow to those people who work there.”

Francis said closures were happening across the country. But initiatives such as the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy would help make the area a go-to destination for employers.

1 COMMENT

  1. So sad to hear this news.

    I have many fond memories of providing service to Trevor and Wendy at Webstar Masterton with Kodak Commercial printing plates and plate processor support.
    Such dedicated people there, wishing you all the very best.

Comments are closed.

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