Body blow: 'It's been tough'

Hillside has survived two world wars and the Great Depression but not the National Government, angry workers say.

• Additional coverage of Hillside Engineering

"We are gutted. The axe has just fallen on 90 jobs," Les Ingram said yesterday after the announcement by KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn that just 25 of 115 positions would remain at the South Dunedin workshops.

Mr Ingram (59) started work at Hillside as a 17-year-old and now must apply for one of seven jobs in the heavy-lift department, where he has worked for the past eight years.

"I'm really concerned. I don't want to leave Dunedin because all my family are here. I'm pessimistic about my future. I think I'll find a job, but it won't be the skilled job that I deserve," he said.

KiwiRail's announcement was a "body blow" and far worse than workers expected after 211 days of uncertainty, Mr Ingram said.

"It's been pretty tough. Hillside is more than a factory; it's a symbol of what New Zealand used to be: proud, courageous, strong and a world leader in the 1940s and 1950s," he said.

He blamed the National Government for Hillside's demise, which he called a crime, and said the "guilty men" were Prime Minister John Key, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and KiwiRail board chairman John Spencer.

"KiwiRail management and the union have tried to find work and we believe there could have been work, but the Government has stopped it. The guys here want to work. They don't want a payout," he said.

As the Hillside branch secretary for the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU), Mr Ingram was intent on making sure redundant workers got everything to which they were entitled.

Employees had until the end of the month to comment on a consultation document they were given yesterday.

Mr Ingram said at least 24 workers were expected to finish on December 7 and another 48 on December 21, when existing projects were completed.

The remainder would leave in January.

Some would be given priority if applying for KiwiRail positions elsewhere in New Zealand, but most did not want to leave Dunedin, Mr Ingram said.

"We are a family. I live in this area and it's going to be really hard driving past Hillside."

RMTU Hillside branch chairman Stuart Johnstone said yesterday's news was "devastating", but at least it brought to a close a lengthy, anxious wait.

Workers felt a range of emotions and their anger was aimed purely at the Government, rather than KiwiRail, he said.

Mr Johnstone said KiwiRail had petitioned the Government for flat-deck wagons to be built at Hillside, but the proposal had been rejected.

KiwiRail's supposed independence was "complete utter rubbish", and the relevant ministers were pulling the strings.

"The Government has failed," Mr Johnstone said.

He had worked at Hillside for more than four of his eight years in Dunedin, and said he might have to leave the city to find work.




Those Chinese wagons

The imported wagons should have been made at Hillside. You get what you pay for.

However, in the bigger picture your vocation has to be secure.

The real impact will be known when these guys find new jobs, or otherwise. They may have to move to get them, but that is life. The last thing we need is the govt propping up businesses - where would it end?

Hillside redundancies

Kiwirail Board of Directors Chairman John Spencer said that The board and management team took full responsibility for the hard decisions that had to be made re Hillside. Perhaps now that they haven't got so many staff to direct we don't need so many of them any longer too.  WOW, more savings.  A positive at last!

What do you expect

Dunedin is outside where the Nats care about this has been shown with the contempt they have shown the the people working at Hillside in the last two months. I have ben seconded to our head office in Newmarket using the train from Henderson to Newmarket and I have to say the carriages built at Hillside are great and well made. I am going to miss Hillside because as a kid I remember going to all those Christmas outings due to my cousin working at Hillside.

But the worst thing I read today was a letter in the New Zealand Herald that said that Bill English has said the average wage has gone up in the last year. Now I am on a reasonable salary but from this comment I would have to assume that all the people that have been laide off must now be getting more on the the dole or the people at the top have just got a bit richer. Sorry for the long rant but I blame Ian Taylor whose letter to the New Zealand Herald just showed me that some people really reasonably well off really do care.

Body blow for Hillside workers

In reply to previous comment yes it is true  the Labour/Greens opened closer trading ties with China but it is the current National led government that is treating this country & it people as a large financial transaction. Profit & loss. Surely there could be a compromise, not to continue more redundancies.

Bill English denies there is a crisis in manufacturing.  

I note also that this Govt are now wanting to invest huge amounts of $ into roading projects through the country yet they are ignoring the fact that rail is another transport solution to invest in, not slim down & reduce rail use capacity. 

Engineering vs tourism

It seems in Dunedin we want to shut down all the skilled work to make way for low paid, unskilled shift work in tourism. I don't know how anyone can contemplate this. Perhaps the DCC could step in and buy Hillside. I'm sure they'll cry poor, but perhaps this is the sort of critically important thing they could have done if they hadn't put all their eggs in a stadium.

The workshops' demise

Perhaps Mr Ingram should be looking back at the last Labour/Green Coalition Govt's Free Trade Agreement for the demise of the Railway Hillside Workshops. To blame the present Govt for this is a bit rich,a bit rich

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