Dunedin leaders, businesses and support agencies are
rallying behind Hillside workers in the hope those made
redundant will find alternative employment in the city.
• Govt not to blame:
KiwiRail has made 90 of the 115 Hillside Engineering
Workshops staff redundant in its partial closure of the South
Early yesterday, the Hillside working party met to determine
how many job vacancies existed within the wider Dunedin
manufacturing industry, and what regional demand there was
for skilled workers.
Chairman of the working party John Christie said he was
optimistic the city could accommodate the 90 Hillside workers
and their families, in terms of providing support, advice and
He said there was anecdotal evidence most of the 44 Hillside
workers made redundant last year had found alternative
employment in Dunedin.
"I hope that's also the case for these 90. There has been a
very supportive, whole-of-community response to the
redundancy notice, and there wasn't a person in the meeting
who wasn't willing to go out of their way to do whatever they
could to support the workers and their families," he said.
The working party was established a couple of years ago and
comprised representatives from the Otago Chamber of Commerce,
Dunedin City Council, engineering and manufacturing
industries, and workers' unions, as well as Hillside
management and staff and all Dunedin MPs.
Mr Christie, the Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive,
said Hillside workers would be offered budgeting and
investment advice, counselling, family support, employment
advice and welfare information.
Hillside apprentices would be helped to complete their
training elsewhere, he said.
The chamber would also set up skilled worker profiles for
those made redundant, in an effort to link them with
appropriate Dunedin businesses seeking staff.
"Some businesses are looking to increase their staffing
numbers in skilled areas, and there are others that may do
that if work orders pick up," he said.
Mr Christie urged workers and their families to seek help
early and not leave things to get "progressively worse".
He hoped workers could remain confident their skills would be
sought in the long term, if not immediately.
"The economy will rebuild," he said.
Mr Christie said the working party would meet again in two
weeks, when the consultation period ended for Hillside staff.
About a quarter of the 115 Hillside workers chose to stay at
home yesterday, as the wounds from Thursday's announcement
remained "raw", the Rail and Maritime Transport Union said.
RMTU South Island organiser John Kerr said Hillside workers
were "a resilient bunch", but the devastating news had
followed a long, anxious wait.