Eighty workers being laid off from a mill in Gisborne say the sudden job loss is devastating.
Japanese-owned Juken New Zealand told staff on Friday that it had decided to close due to ongoing financial difficulties and falling demand.
Sixty workers were set to lose their jobs before Christmas, with another 20 leaving in March.
First Union represented the workers, and its representative, Colleen Ryan, said they were heartbroken, with some losing their entire family income.
“Even though they knew this was potentially going to happen, it was extremely upsetting for them,” she said.
“In some cases, we’ve got couples that both worked there, which is going to be doubly bad. They are absolutely devastated.
“When I phoned one of our delegates she was in tears talking to me. I mean, even with the knowledge or the potential knowledge that this is going to happen, just this time of year, it is devastating.”
She said the union would meet with workers on Monday to offer support and help them find new employment.