Rail workers 'gutted' by sale
Thu, 15 Nov 2012 1:57p.m.
By 3 News online staff with NZN
Government-owned KiwiRail has sold off part of Dunedin’s Hillside Railway workshops.
Ninety of the workshop’s 115 workers face redundancies after the Government failed to sell the facility’s manufacturing plant, forcing it into a likely closure.
Longtime rail worker Les Ingram, who's been at the plant for 13 years, says he's "gutted" by today's news.
“I’m gutted; the axe has just fallen on 90 jobs. Hillside is more than a factory, it’s a symbol of what New Zealand used to be: proud, courageous, strong, leader of the world in the 50s, 40s, and 30s.”
The facility’s foundry has been sold to Bradken, an Australian heavy engineering company, who will continue to employ 16 of the original staff.
The sale is expected to be completed early next year with Bradken continuing to operate the site, including supplying parts to KiwiRail as required.
KiwiRail will also continue to operate its heavy lift facility as a freight business, retaining eight of the original staff.
The Hillside workshop will be progressively closed down over the coming months, as work is either completed or transferred to workshops near Wellington.
Partial sale ‘body blow’ for workers
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) has described the move as a “body blow” for workers.
Acting general secretary Todd Valster blames KiwiRail’s board for the decision.
“KiwiRail management and the workforce have exhausted every option to try and keep the workshops going”, he says, “but their hands have been tied by a board that is packed with ideologically driven political appointees who slavishly follow National’s line that people’s livelihoods must be left to the whim of the market.”
The Government has been trying to sell the facility since April, but has had trouble finding a buyer for the entire workshop.
But Labour's Dunedin MPs, Clare Curran and David Clark, say KiwiRail was acting under a government directive to close part of the rail.
"The decision to close part of Hillside is an act of economic sabotage," they said in a joint statement.
"Under this government there will never be a train built in Dunedin again. This is terrible news for the city."
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn was disappointed they couldn't ensure a buyer, claiming the company had preformed an extensive international search for a new owner.
“Despite a rigorous sales campaign there simply wasn’t a buyer out there for the whole operation,” he says.
Mr Quinn said the decision to sell Hillside was made after an analysis of workshops across the country. It was concluded that there was not enough work to cover the costs to run the site, particularly when the existing rail capital projects end.
“KiwiRail alone could not afford the future operating costs to keep Hillside open in the face of this decreasing work,” he says.
“Many will be sad about its closure, however change is necessary as we continue to build a sustainable rail business for the challenges ahead.”
3 News / NZN
Watch the video for an interview with longtime rail worker Les Ingram
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16/11/2012 10:55:09 a.m.
If the workers believe in themselves and their skills, then form a consortium, go to the banks, and borrow the money, and continue. There are plenty of examples of this kind of business action around the World.
16/11/2012 9:38:18 a.m.
Just another nail in the coffin of the Key Government. NZ needs a major shift in its thinking if it is going to go anywhere, other than, de facto to Australia. Our current leadership is phoney and big corporates, and Banks, are what is really running this country. That is the reality. We only vote every three years, some of us do anyway, for a change in puppets of the Big Money.
15/11/2012 8:07:38 p.m.
If you guys were in power no doubt there would be full employment and we would have lots of useful products like horseshoes, typewriters and abacuses to spend out state controlled (north Korean level) incomes on. In your paradise if we worked really hard (and joined the communist party) we could even aspire to having a marvelous car like a Lada!! Sorry reality is that unfortunately progress and technology make some industries redundant or noncompetitive and subsidizing them eventually becomes prohibitive.
15/11/2012 6:06:10 p.m.
I moved to NZ in 1981. Plenty going on, plenty of honest hard workers. I love this country, I still do, but the gradual sell out of local industry and land to oversees investors is a real worry. Locos and rail cars made in China! Even Lion Breweries is now owned by the Japanese!! Come back Helen Clark!... I'd like to think all is forgiven by those who didn't vote for you!. We need to move forward with changes... yes that's called progress. This can be achieved by New Zealanders, in New Zealand for God's sake!
15/11/2012 2:44:34 p.m.
Dunedin resident wrote:
The writing was on the wall from the first day the National Govt took office. Send the work to China, close the workshops and to hell with the people of NZ. Thanks John.
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