Farewell brings works to life
By BOB DONNELLY
For just a few hours yesterday the Whakatu freezing works fluttered back to life.
There was singing, laughter and wisecracks as the champagne flowed and the beer was passed around.
Somebody had borrowed top hats to add to the festivities, though one staff member spoilt the effect by pointing out the hats looked suspiciously like those worn at funerals.
It was the only suggestion that this could be a burial rather than a party.
In fact, it was the end. And it came almost a full year from the day HBFMC announced its giant freezing works – employing up to 2100 – was to close.
From today, Weddel Crown is in charge at Whakatu.
Yesterday only about 60 were at the works to witness the HBFMC’s final moments. They were mainly maintenance workers and salaried staff who had stayed on, many of them thinking they would have jobs under Weddel.
For almost all of them it was the last day, and they spent some of those final moments watching the company flag being hauled down in a symbolic ceremony.
The job went to long-serving senior executive Mr Bruce Jenkinson. He spoke briefly about what a sad occasion it was, and how the last 12 months had been distressing and disturbing.
Mr Jenkinson has no job under Weddel.
His colleagues laughed and sang as he hauled down the company flag and the New Zealand flag that had fluttered on poles in front of the main office block.
Foreman Mr Colin Finlay was among those enjoying his last hours at the works. After 27 years he had no regrets. Nor sorrow.
“I loved it out here, and as far as I’m concerned this is a happy day.
“But the young fellers are different – they still have to find jobs,” said the 58-year-old Mr Finlay who was also the works fire chief for 22 years.
Plumber Mr Colin Pulford, after 41 years, plans to spend a little more time in his workshop at Clive from today.
He was enjoying the festive air at Whakatu yesterday though he had an eye on the future.
At 57, he wants to find another job. He knows his chances are not that good. But new owners, Weddel Crown, have told him they might want him back.
Foreman Mr Cam Souter had thought his job was safe till last week.
He recalls waiting to go in to see a Weddel official for an interview.
A fellow supervisor came out of the interview room and drew a line across his throat.
Minutes later Mr Souter, who had worked in the south Fellmongery, learned Weddel Crown did not want him.
Picture: Time to go. Mr Jenkinson lowers the company flag for the last time.