International consensus that Hillside job cuts bad

Hillside Engineering Workshops. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Hillside Engineering Workshops. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Rail and labour representatives from throughout Asia and the Pacific are condemning the New Zealand Government for allowing Dunedin's Hillside Engineering Workshops to all but close.

Calls for governments to prioritise in-country work tenders were made by members of the International Centre for Labour Solidarity (ICLS), which met in Wellington at the weekend.

Opponents of KiwiRail's decision to partly close Hillside have blamed it on the of awarding of contracts to international companies in preference to the South Dunedin facility.

They said the Government rejected viable tenders from KiwiRail to produce wagons at Hillside, leaving KiwiRail no choice but to sell the workshops.

Those allegations have been dismissed by KiwiRail and the Government, which said Hillside was unsuitable for the work.

Yesterday, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU), which was among those blaming the National Government for Hillside's demise, published a resolution from the ICLS meeting, which it hosted.

A dozen New Zealand delegates were involved as well as about 60 international guests from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Australia.

The resolution stated members ''abhor'' and ''condemn'' the Government's ''failure'' to give KiwiRail clear direction to build railway rolling stock in New Zealand and the subsequent decision to partially close Hillside, which resulted in mass redundancy.

The ICLS resolution also criticised the Government for failing to consider the wider economic and social implications of its procurement decisions, which it said resulted in the decline of New Zealand's manufacturing base, the loss of highly skilled jobs and reduced investment in the country's workforce.

The ICLS endorsed the principle of fostering its members' economic, political and social wellbeing by building railway rolling stock ''as close to the point of use as possible''.

It called for affiliates to demand the adoption by various governments of procurement policies which promoted in-country contracts, and affirmed its commitment to employment and production for the ''public good'' and not for private profit.

RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson said international ICLS delegates cited procurement rules of their governments which made sure work was kept in-country.

''It's only New Zealand that is at the cutting edge of policy for a free trade model, and that's why New Zealand is faring the worst in manufacturing. There's a wider social and economic cost to be factored in and we argue the cost to the taxpayer is higher with cheap locomotives and high unemployment."

Mr Butson said without policy changes, manufacturing would get worse and more New Zealanders would lose their jobs.

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