Possible inquiry into Hillside workshops closure

WILMA MCCORKINDALE IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 10:33 28/11/2012

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A Parliamentary inquiry into KiwiRail procurement in relation to the Hillside Workshops closure could be included in the current Select Committee inquiry into manufacturing.

Labour leader David Shearer said in an interview with political journalist Neale McMillan on Otago Access Radio on Sunday night that he would be pushing for Hillside matters to be included in the manufacturing inquiry.

Shearer believed there remained some big unanswered questions in the wake of last year's Hillside redundancies, subsequent awarding of KiwiRail contracts overseas, and closure of the Dunedin engineering plant.

One of those questions was why KiwiRail bought overseas without seriously looking at what could be done at Hillside, Shearer said.

Ninety staff will lose their jobs in the wake of this month's announcement KiwiRail has conditionally sold the plant's foundry to Australian company Bradken.

KiwiRail's freight business will operate the heavy lift facility, and the rest of the Hillside site would be progressively closed down over the next few months.

The Rail and Maritime Union and former Hillside workers told DScene last week they believed Government and KiwiRail had stifled management efforts to source work for  the soon-to-be scuttled workshops.

''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'', union organiser John Kerr said.

He said senior KiwiRail management proposed a plan to build 100 flat deck wagons a year at Hillside when the recession and the Canterbury earthquake hit,  and purchasing of wagons from overseas manufacturers slowed.

''That posed an opportunity to do those short runs that Hillside was so good at. ''The numbers were looking pretty good.''

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- D Scene

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