Business

Beverage giant Lion set to axe 30 New Zealand jobs

The country’s largest alcohol beverage company is gearing up to lay off 3 per cent of its workforce as it undergoes an internal restructure.

The Herald understands that Lion, the company behind a string of popular beer, wine and spirit brands, is proposing to make most of the jobs cuts within its sales and administration divisions.

Lion would not confirm which roles the job losses would affect, but said it expected to disestablish about 30 full-time jobs.

A “small number” of staff have already been let go.

“We are still working through the process with our people and are still looking at redeployment options for some of those affected,” a spokeswoman for Lion said.

In a statement, the company said it had “reduced a number of roles” as part of plans to “reshape the business” as a result of disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent closures of hospitality venues.

“Like most businesses both large and small, Lion has felt the impact of Covid, particularly as we are the largest supplier in the on-premise market. The on-premise market is down around 33 per cent in sales for the year.

“We constantly monitor our operational requirements and we needed to do some reshaping of the business. However, we are also taking the opportunity to invest in areas of the business that provide value to our customers and consumers, such as digital, and also adopting agile in some parts of the business,” Lion said.

“Our first priority and our primary concern right now however is to support our people through these current changes.”

Lion managing director Rory Glass was unavailable for an interview with the Herald.

Lion employs about 1000 staff in New Zealand. According to the company’s website, it generates “$818m worth of economic activity for the country”.

It produces beer brands Speight’s, Steinlager, Mac’s, Emerson’s, Stella Artois and Corona, popular wine brands Wither Hills and Lindauer and spirits including Smirnoff, Baileys and Johnnie Walker, among others.

Jared Abbot, First Union secretary for transport, logistics and manufacturing, said the redundancies affected sales staff across Lion’s operations in New Zealand and Australia.

First Union and Etu had no details on how many staff the restructuring plans would affect as they did not represent sales staff members.

Abbott said most of the cuts were still at the proposal stage.

“This is possibly more a restructure because of the change of the way goods are being sold,” Abbott told the Herald.

“We’ve been doing a bit of work on these sites lately and they’ve been super busy.

“There was a lot of alcohol that was returned from bars in forms of kegs during the lockdowns because the restaurant trade and bars were closed. The output of bottled alcohol for supermarkets and liquor stores has increased considerably – I don’t think alcohol consumption, in general, has decreased, it has just changed in terms of how it is consumed.”

A spokesman for Etu, which represents trades and manufacturing staff, at Lion said there were no proposals in place to make Lion factory staff redundant in Auckland.

“I have heard of potential changes in Australia, but none in Auckland.”

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