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