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Fisher and Paykel blames wages for Brisbane f -

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LISA MILLAR: Whitegoods manufacturer Fisher and Paykel is heading off shore and blaming the high
wages it has to pay staff in Australia.

The company is moving its Brisbane refrigerator factory to Thailand where it can attract workers
for as little as two to three dollars an hour.

Hundreds of employees will lose their jobs in Brisbane. The company's also relocating factories in
New Zealand and the United States.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: 310 Brisbane workers will today learn they'll lose their jobs.

JOHN BONGARD: Unfortunately for our staff at the Brisbane plant we've been forced for a number of
reasons to relocate that operation.

ANNIE GUEST: John Bongard is the Chief Executive of Fisher and Paykel.

JOHN BONGARD: Obviously the staff up in Brisbane are devastated by the announcement.

ANNIE GUEST: He says the refrigerator plant in Cleveland in Brisbane's east will be shutdown next
March.

It's one of Queensland's bigger manufacturers, employing hundreds more people than the average of
17 workers in the state's factories.

Fisher and Paykel will also close factories in the United States and in New Zealand, where it makes
ovens and dishwashers.

Production will move to Thailand and Mexico. And the reason?

JOHN BONGARD: It's just that we can't compete with people who are being paid two, three dollars an
hour.

ANNIE GUEST: John Bongard says Free Trade Agreements make it impossible to match low-wage paying
countries.

And there are other factors behind the move.

JOHN BONGARD: There's also the fact that the exchange rates in Australia and also New Zealand are
very, very high, fuelled by high interest rates, making exporting out of either New Zealand or
Australia just increasing difficult.

ANNIE GUEST: Fisher and Paykel released a statement to the Stock Exchange this morning.

Workers going onto shifts at the Brisbane plant have declined to comment.

John Bongard says they'll be offered counselling and guidance to find new jobs.

Two weeks ago they were told there would be some temporary closures at the factory.

This is John Bongard on The World Today on the 2nd of April.

JOHN BONGARD: The shut has been for factory... for stock balancing reasons rather than demand.

ANNIE GUEST: Today he denies being misleading.

JOHN BONGARD: Obviously with moves like this, Annie, there's a lot of planning and a lot of detail
has to go into how we approach a major or global change for us.

ANNIE GUEST: Were you giving workers and indeed the public... were you misleading them when you
indicated that this plant would be returning to production?

JOHN BONGARD: No, not at all! I was talking to you the other day - we as a Board hadn't made any
decisions, and I'm not going to announce what we're going to do on ABC Radio.

ANNIE GUEST: Fisher & Paykel was formed in 1934 by two young New Zealanders, Woolf Fisher and
Maurice Paykel.

The now publicly-listed company follows other manufacturers in Australia in moving offshore,
including its major competitor, Electrolux.

But the announcement has come as a shock to the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union.

The State Secretary is Andrew Dettmer.

ANDREW DETTMER: These are not high paid workers, these are not people who you could say are pricing
themselves out of the labour market, and in fact the company's position is a bit strange.

ANNIE GUEST: Andrew Dettmer says Fisher and Paykel reassured the Union two weeks ago that it wasn't
planning to close.

He's annoyed by what he calls a failure to consult.

ANDREW DETTMER: They rang me at about a quarter to five yesterday suggesting a meeting at 7am this
morning. I when I said that my assistant secretary would be present they said that, that wasn't
acceptable.

ANNIE GUEST: Andrew Dettmer is calling on the State and Federal Governments to help the workers.

And he's concerned more companies could follow Fisher and Paykel offshore.

Given the amount of assistance we've sought to give the company, the assistance which they've
received over time from both State and Federal Governments, that really I do wonder what needs to
happen to ensure that we keep a viable manufacturing industry here in Australia.

The Federal and State Governments are yet to comment on the closure.

LISA MILLAR: Annie Guest reporting from Brisbane.