Fire at Silver Fern Beef Plant

NEW ZEALAND - The Te Aroha beef plant, part of the Silver Fern company, was significantly damaged by a fire late on Friday night. It took about 20 fire engines and 70 fire fighters to bring it under control.
calendar icon 8 December 2010
clock icon 2 minute read

No one was injured and there were no livestock involved and, the company says, there were no environmental impacts.

Silver Fern Farms Chairman Eoin Garden and Chief Executive Keith Cooper met with a large number of the 350 employees of the plant on Monday to brief them on employment options for coming months and to outline the key timeframes around the future of their plant.

Chief Executive Keith Cooper said the mood was sombre at the meeting, reflecting the impact of employment uncertainty.

“We value our skilled and dedicated people at the plant and know they need certainty about income for their families – especially three weeks out from Christmas. They are employed under seasonal contracts, which means that if work is not available, they are seasonally ‘laid off’. However we are sensitive to the situation and, in addition to paying all staff their normal weekly earnings as if they had worked this week, we will also pay them the minimum wage up until Christmas.

“Furthermore, we are offering 190 positions at our Pacific plant in Hastings, on full pay plus an accommodation allowance. We believe this will create a positive opportunity for the majority of our Te Aroha people.”

Mr Cooper says that, because the company needs to service the Silver Fern Farms suppliers that have livestock processed at the plant, it is increasing capacity at its Dargaville, Hawera and Pacific plants.

In starting a night shift at Pacific plant, the company is hopeful that 190 staff from Te Aroha will take up the offer of employment to man this shift for the remainder of the season.

He says the additional capacity being brought on at Silver Fern Farms’ other plants will enable the company to largely absorb livestock that would have been processed at Te Aroha – on a short-term basis, at least. This is happening with the assistance of business interruption insurance cover, which will largely compensate any negative impact on the business.

Chairman Eoin Garden said Silver Fern Farms has a great team at Te Aroha plant and a solid shareholder/supplier base.

“And we have customer demand for the product we produce. This all means Silver Fern Farms will require a plant in the area for the future.”

The cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, but provisionally it appears it may relate to external contractors leaving a residual heat source, which ignited some time after work was complete. It is clear there was no neglect by the company, nor any Silver Fern Farms employees.

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