Joyce killed Hillside: union

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 15:23 21/11/2012
John Kerr
Hillside union organiser John Kerr.

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The Government and the KiwiRail board stifled management efforts to source work, leading to the planned scuttling of Hillside Engineering workshops, the New Zealand Rail and Maritime Union says. 

Union organiser John Kerr said Hillside workers - who had waited 211 days for news of their fate after the state-owned enterprise had put their workplace up for sale in May - had been stabbed in the back by the National Government.

Former workers agree and are calling for an inquiry into Hillside matters.

Most of Hillside will shut down, it was announced last week, with about 90 staff losing their jobs.

Kerr said there had been an air of resignation and anger among the workers even before they received the news KiwiRail had failed to sell Hillside as a going concern.

He believed the KiwiRail board had worked against it remaining open, taking "the Government line" which was anti-rail, anti-nationalised industry, and anti-Dunedin.

Kerr said the board rejected KiwiRail management's efforts to save the beleaguered plant.

"We know KiwiRail management was working hard to try and source work for Hillside. The board and the minister [Steven Joyce] pulled the rug out from under that."

"We're laying the blame squarely at the feet of the National Government, which decided to have the work Hillside does done offshore.

A delegation of former Hillside staff told ifD Scenenf they supported Kerr's comments, saying Hillside matters should be the focus of a national inquiry.

Spokesman Wayne White said the staff believed there had been a systematic running down of the business, which included dismissal of staff proposals that suggested workload restructuring to avoid redundancies of 2011.

The 90 staff at the site are to lose their jobs with the conditional sale of its foundry to Australian company Bradken, announced last week. KiwiRail's freight business will operate the heavy lift facility, currently at Hillside, in the future.

The rest of the South Dunedin plant is progressively being shut down over the next few months.

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- The Southland Times

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