No hamper for National supporter

At least one redundant Hillside worker has been denied a Christmas hamper of community-donated goods, organised by Labour Party Dunedin South MP Clare Curran.

Hillside plant and process improvement leader David Fenwick said he was told by Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) Hillside branch delegates he would not receive a community hamper because he was a National supporter and a ''scabber''.

In total, 111 hampers were compiled by Ms Curran and RMTU Hillside branch delegates then distributed them to redundant Hillside workers last week.

More than $3000 worth of food, alcohol, toys, clothes and vouchers was given to the Hillside hamper appeal by Dunedin businesses and individuals.

Mr Fenwick was part of the 20-strong ''sunset crew'' tasked with closing down all but Hillside's heavy lift and foundry, and would be made redundant in late February or early March. He said he was asked, with other workers, to gather in the Hillside car park for hampers to be given out but did not receive one.

''I asked if there was a hamper for me and was told no, because I was a National supporter and a scabber. The union people simply don't want me to have a hamper because I voted National and always have.

''They seem to regard me as a scab, but there's no truth in that. I've never crossed any picket line to go to work. It's quite malicious. Being a National supporter is my right.''

Mr Fenwick said he knew of another non-union worker who also did not receive a hamper.

He said hampers were given to others in the sunset crew as well as those who had retained employment under KiwiRail outside Hillside.

Ms Curran said she did not know Mr Fenwick had not received a hamper. Although she organised the hamper appeal, she ''trusted'' union delegates to compose a list of recipients and distribute hampers accordingly.

She ''understood'' some workers would not get hampers but said she did not ask why, and did not know whether hampers were only given to union members. She said she would not be taking any action. RMTU Hillside branch chairman Stuart Johnstone deferred comment to secretary Les Ingram, who said he was not aware of the issue.

Mr Ingram said he was disappointed Mr Fenwick had contacted the Otago Daily Times instead of raising the matter with him. He did not see the list of recipients but said ''many'' people who were not in the union got hampers and it was ''probably an oversight''.

''It's been a very stressful month and possibly some mistakes have been made which is regrettable,'' he said.

National list MP Michael Woodhouse said he was told about the incident by a ''mutual friend'' late on Friday and organised for some goods to be donated to Mr Fenwick.

Mr Woodhouse said he hoped the absence of the hamper was an ''oversight'' and not intentional or politically motivated.

''My concern is that what was a very generous gesture, facilitated by the union on the part of businesses in Dunedin, risks being tainted because of the failure for everybody to get one.''



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