Help for Hillside workers

John Christie
John Christie
Dunedin leaders, businesses and support agencies are rallying behind Hillside workers in the hope those made redundant will find alternative employment in the city.

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KiwiRail has made 90 of the 115 Hillside Engineering Workshops staff redundant in its partial closure of the South Dunedin facility.

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 job opportunities.

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.


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