Show of solidarity in job offers for Hillside workers

John Kerr
John Kerr
In a demonstration of solidarity, older KiwiRail workers are offering their jobs to redundant Hillside employees and electing to retire.

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) was facilitating discussion between the 90 workers facing redundancy at Hillside and KiwiRail staff elsewhere in New Zealand who have offered to retire.

RMTU South Island organiser John Kerr said a KiwiRail worker in Christchurch, another in Invercargill and a few in the North Island were willing to exchange places with those made redundant from the South Dunedin workshops.

He said the older workers were close to retirement age and felt it was more important for "younger blokes" to be employed.

"It's quite gratifying in a way. It shows the depth of solidarity among KiwiRail employees. Rail workers stick together and there is a lot of support from our members throughout the country for Hillside workers," Mr Kerr said.

The consultation period between KiwiRail and Hillside staff ended yesterday.

KiwiRail was expected to announce a final decision concerning the engineering workshops during a meeting at the site on Monday afternoon.

Staff had submitted many questions about their likely redundancy and did not expect KiwiRail to significantly change its proposal to make all but 25 employees redundant in its partial closure of Hillside.

RMTU Hillside branch secretary Les Ingram said workers were generally resigned to their fate.

"Most people just want to move on with their lives in whatever form that is. There's still some anxiety about what the future holds," he said.

The retention of more jobs by KiwiRail would be "nice" but was unlikely, he said.

"It seems the decision has pretty well been made."

The "vast majority" of staff were concentrating on the few positions available at Hillside, as well as other vacancies within KiwiRail, both in Dunedin and elsewhere in the country, Mr Ingram said.

A seminar was being held this week to assist workers in compiling their CVs.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said "multiple" Dunedin businesses had come forward in the past week with possible job offers for redundant Hillside workers.

He could not quantify the number of jobs available but said there were good opportunities for ex-Hillside employees.

Through his involvement in the Hillside working group, Mr Christie and other members were facilitating discussion between those looking for work and those seeking skilled staff.

Dunedin businesses are being asked to support redundant Hillside workers by donating Christmas hamper items.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran launched the Hillside hamper appeal yesterday because she said Hillside workers would miss out on their traditional Christmas hamper this year.

KiwiRail recently announced it would close most of the South Dunedin manufacturing facility, leaving 90 of the 115 employees out of work.

Ms Curran asked those wanting to donate hamper items to contact staff at her office between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.


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