Creating the factories of tomorrow

Lavina is Deputy Convenor of E tū’s Food & Manufacturing Industry Council

Lavina Rickard didn’t expect to end up working in one of Aotearoa’s most well-known wine and food regions. But as a team leader at Sanfords with decades of experience behind her, she’s playing a role in reshaping the future of manufacturing for workers.

How did you come to be working in food production?

Marlborough is a food-producing district, so in terms of work, it’s mussels or it’s wineries. I’ve now been in the sector for 26 years.

What’s involved in your role?

I’ve been a team leader for the past 15 years – first on the processing shifts, then around 2010, I transferred to the sanitation shifts. We clean the factory and the machinery. It’s the most important shift at the Havelock site – Sanford’s only mussel site. If the hygiene specifications aren’t met, then the processing shift can’t work. I’m also a health and safety rep, fire warden, and first aider. The variety of ‘hats’ I wear are due to the different job titles I’ve held. I’ve also been an E tū delegate for more than 10 years!

Can you tell us about any unusual parts of your work?

It’s out of necessity that I work my shift from midnight to 6.00am. The hours suit me better in relation to my personal life.

Where are you originally from?

I grew up in Whangārei and came down to Blenheim at 17 to find employment. Then I studied at AUT (then AIT) in Auckland and carried on at Lincoln University. Two years in, I fell pregnant and have spent the last 26 years supporting my three children.

How did you get involved with the union?

I’ve always been union – even before Sanfords – and my family has always been union. For me, it’s just about supporting each other, and making sure workers are treated right. Being in this industry for as long as I’ve worked in it – I’ve come from the ‘bad old days’ – I know how important it is to look after people.

You’re now doing work on the Government’s Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for advanced manufacturing. What’s it all about?

The ITP is a government initiative that involves workers, union, Māori, business leaders, academics, and scientists, working toward a goal to improve the lives of all. That means better paying jobs for current and new workers in the industry, better jobs and career opportunities. It’s also about decent working conditions, which will be beneficial not only for the workers and their families, but also their communities.

The Advanced Manufacturing ITP is about lifting the ‘manufacturing profile’ from hard, labour-intensive work, to an industry that future workers can forge a great career path in. It’s about attracting a diverse workforce and talent that stems from all different walks of life, to use their skills and experience to create a more innovative, sustainable, connected industry, based around a ‘Just Transition’.

How will workers be affected?

To cope with the fourth revolution of industry – ‘industry 4.0’ a.k.a. the ‘smart factory’ – businesses will have to invest in the upskilling (preferably transferable skills) of their workforce. There needs to be a focus on building a solid foundation first. Basic literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy will enable workers to cope with the changes and advances in manufacturing.

What do you like to get up to in your free time?

I don’t have much free time with work and family commitments, but I do enjoy fishing. A great downtime activity and a chance to catch up with my sister, who has as busy a schedule as I do. My siblings and I were brought up around the sea, so we all indulge in a variety of sea-related activities.