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Merry Christmas Hillside

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, December 7th, 2012 - 72 comments
Categories: capitalism, jobs, national - Tags: , ,

I almost missed this little gem from a couple of days ago:

Govt urged KiwiRail to keep workshops open

The Government leaned on KiwiRail to stop it closing the Hillside workshops but the company couldn’t find a way to keep them open, Prime Minister John Key says.

The government leaned on KiwiRail. Leaned on them (is that even appropriate)? If only, instead of “leaning” on KiwiRail, the government had done something useful, like, say, I don’t know, sent them some business. Used the skills, experience, and talent of Hillside. If only the government had been able to do that.

Oh wait.

The government could have sent a big contract to Hillside. Instead they decided to pay bargain basement prices for bargain basement quality and bugger the bigger picture. They can’t really complain to anyone when KiwiRail plays the same short-term bottom-line game then can they. Hypocrites.

Meanwhile, as is so often the case, the workers give the bosses a lesson in humanity:

Show of solidarity in job offers for Hillside workers

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.

Here’s a salute to the workers who are going early to help others keep their jobs. It won’t help many, but it will help a few. Here’s commiserations to the 90 who have just lost their jobs – an early Christmas present from the National government. It’s another sad chapter in the ongoing collapse of manufacturing in NZ. A particularly bitter chapter, because it didn’t have to be this way.

72 comments on “Merry Christmas Hillside”

  1. Neoleftie 1

    I work on hillside rd, chat daily to some of the workers and have witnessed events unfold from a gaggle of woman branch south D protestors and the usually media focus to the resigned to their fate staff adrift and isolated powerless in the face of the Tory idiolology….merry merry fuckin Christmas.

  2. BM 2

    How does the government over rule Kiwi rail?
    I thought SOEs were structured in a way to avoid political meddling

  3. higherstandard 3

    Good on the chaps for taking an early retirement to keep some of the younger fellows on.

    It does seem perverse that the government couldn’t have tilted the playing field, by hook or by crook, in the favour of local industry.

  4. karol 4

    I was very sorry to read about the lay offs.  The PM is a hypocrite for making out he cared about the workers by “leaning on” people.

    Is there any kind of Christmas collection happening for the people laid off?

    How is the parliamentary inquiry on manufacturing going? 

  5. vto 5

    “The government could have sent a big contract to Hillside. Instead they decided to pay bargain basement prices …”

    … should read …

    The government could have sent a big contract to Hillside. Instead they decided to pay [slave wages in far off lands].

    Mind you, what should we expect in modern New Zealand? The fishing companies get [slaves from far off lands] to fish our seas. The Warehouse gets [slaves in far off lands] to make our clothes.

    We make use of [slaves in far off lands]. This is the current way.

    • Populuxe1 5.1

      “The government could have sent a big contract to Hillside. Instead they decided to pay [slave wages in far off lands].”

      The government is obliged to the taxpayer to get the best possible deal to make the most of the budget. I suppose they could cut welfare and state funding even more than they have. Would that make you feel better? And while this government is happily slashing welfare out of their own perverse ideology, most left leaning governments wouldn’t advocate propping up uneconomic manufacturing in the middle of an economic contraction either.

      Non-luxury manufacturing for NZ is a dinosaur. There is no getting around China and the other Asian manufacturing markets – the NZ economy has to get smarter. 

      • galeandra 5.1.1

        most left leaning governments wouldn’t advocate propping up uneconomic manufacturing in the middle of an economic contraction either. ….

        Obama’s auto bailout .. from someone to the right of Reagan. Even in the ol’ USof A!!

        • Populuxe1 5.1.1.1

          In that particular instance it was still probably the wrong thing to do, but then again they also risked the total economic collapse of the state of Michigan. 

      • vto 5.1.2

        I think you missed the general point pop…

        How much are we prepared to turn a blind eye to us paying people 2c an hour to make our undies?
        How little are we prepared to pay anyone to make our undies? As little as we can possibly get away with and who cares about the undies-maker? (current approach).
        Are you happy to support slavery?

        Why only non-luxury manufacturing? Why would it stop at that pop?
        If we have to “get smarter” as you put it, then how on earth do we do that? Are we the smartest people in the world? And if not, then how would we succeed at that?

        What will we do when cheap labour does everything for us? Do we never labour again?
        And how do we build our trains and make our undies if the slaves stop doing it?

        I just don’t see that the current way the world is operating as sustainable. Entire giant populations of the world are dependent entirely on ships sailing in with their food, trains and undies. Some populations do nothing at all because the slaves do it all. It is just all up the boohai if you ask me…

        • Populuxe1 5.1.2.1

          Well unfortunately we don’t live in some airy fairy utopia full of unicorns and rainbows, so if anyone is going get screwed over I’d rather it wasn’t the citizens of this country. It’s incredibly presumptuous and paternalistic of you to tell those countries what their problems – they’re more than aware of them. Of course, I expect some of those “slaves” might be quite glad to be able to feed their families in countries where they don’t have our relatively expensive welfare system. I mean hell, the entire western world is facing the possible collapse of social security and all our Greens can do is whinge that some of the fund is invested with companies that make weapons. Well boo hoo, the world is a shitty cesspit of unfairness and exploitation – the best we can do is try and hold it off from our shores for as long as possible.

          • TheContrarian 5.1.2.1.1

            Yeah but you’re too stupid to understand/delusional/an RWNJ…..and so forth

            • Populuxe1 5.1.2.1.1.1

              Of course. Anyone who doesn’t preach verbatim from Das Kapital is stupid/delusional/ a RWNJ, etc.
              OK, I would never support third way doctrine either – I’m an old-fashioned national economic protectionist, me. I believe in workers rights, but I’d rather focus on this country where we can actually achieve progress.
              I’m afraid as the world situation worsens, some folk might actually realise that the niceties of liberal democracy we enjoy are actually fragile and expensive, and if we are to continue to enjoy some semblance of them, we may very well have to dirty our hands.

              • TheContrarian

                It doesn’t matter what you believe anymore Populuxe. You have already been tainted with a scarlet letter by disagreeing with the Learned Alphas of The Standard.

                It is too late for people like you and me – we are The Enemy, our fate is written.

          • vto 5.1.2.1.2

            Well instead of going off on a rant and throwing in some witty confusing one-liners with noncontrarian you could try and answer the general point, which was expressed thus…

            “How little are we prepared to pay anyone to make our undies? As little as we can possibly get away with and who cares about the undies-maker? (current approach).”

            And you answer in your rant is clear pop. It is, “fuck them get stuck in first, it is a big mean tough world and you have to be a prick to survive so we smell the roses. ” Do you grow roses pop?

      • Johan 5.1.3

        Mate you need to remove your blinkers. There is such a thing as cause and effect.
        Every nation in the world will and has been getting screwed economically, simply because of an unlevel playing field in the manufacturing sector.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.4

        most left leaning governments wouldn’t advocate propping up uneconomic manufacturing in the middle of an economic contraction either.

        It’s not uneconomic. It may not make financial sense but, then, finances are delusional. That is the problem with modern economics – it completely misses the economics and focuses on the monetary side. This results in society collapsing as economies fail.

        • Populuxe1 5.1.4.1

          Well roll on arma-fucking-geddon and the return of the barter system and shitting out the window. I mean, it may not make rational sense, but the real world is an illusion and focuses on the mere physical needs of human beings when everyone should be sitting around gazing at their navels and keeping out of trouble.

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.4.1.1

            Who said anything about barter?

            Money is an abstract tool used for moving real resources. The economists and most people have forgotten this and so when they ask if something can be afforded they ask if there’s enough money but don’t ask about the availability of the actual resources. We have the resources to make trains here and thus it is cheaper to make them here but, again, people only focus upon the money and see that it’s cheaper monetary-wise to make them elsewhere and do so. This results in the resources we have here either not being used and/or being sold at far less value to pay for the trains to be made elsewhere. We become poorer from these rather stupid decisions due to excess resources being sold cheaply to pay for expensive work.

            • TheContrarian 5.1.4.1.1.1

              “We have the resources to make trains here and thus it is cheaper to make them here”

              Not necessarily. Resources are one part of the cost, labour is another. It is cheaper overseas because you’d only need pay $1NZD per person, per hour over $12.50NZD for the same labour here.

              • Populuxe1

                Ah, you see, that’s because your stuck on this whole real world existence where people use money to pay for things and Draco isn’t the benign tyrant of the fantasy world state. Do get with the programme.

                • TheContrarian

                  Draco has this bizarre idea that it is just as cheap to produce things here as it is anywhere else in the world. Which would be true if it wasn’t for that fact it isn’t true.

    • Johan 5.2

      Yes we, and every single country in the world is falling into that same old trap of “They can produce it cheaper, therefore our manufacturing sector is uneconomic, and our workers are lazy and greedy” or some bullshit reply. The truth is that the capitalists, starting with the American billionaires, have heavily invested in China
      ( setting up factories), who have agreed to manufacture goods at slave labour rates, which no country can compete against, this is hardly a level playing field.
      “Tricky Dick” Richard Nixon started the ball rolling years ago with an agreement hatched between American capitalists and the Chinese hierarchy, ensuring that American investments would be safe. Now, if Chinese employees protest due to inhuman treatment at work, the local police and army personnel are quick to strikes and general public outbursts of disharmony.
      It is easy to see that we, as a society are heading more in the direction of multi-national corporate control, and less democratic say for individuals.

      • vto 5.2.1

        Well I am quite happy for the Chinese police and state army to suppress all attempts by Chinese workers to improve their lot through intimidation, arms, torture and jail so that I can buy cheap undies. I think that is entirely reasonable.

        Go the cheap undies and labour. Go the Chinese state police.

        edit: sarc. btw

        • Populuxe1 5.2.1.1

          Ok, this is why you’re an idiot. Most of our economy relies on exports. If other countries don’t buy those exports because they can get them elsewhere cheaper, we’re fucked. Of course if we’re fucked, and we’re having to pay twice or three times the price for locally manufactured versions of your hypothetical undies, we’re even more fucked. Do you have a problem with beneficiaries and poor families being able to afford undies?

          • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1.1.1

            Do you have a problem with beneficiaries and poor families being able to afford undies?

            If we produced those undies here and paid well enough then we wouldn’t have beneficiaries or poor people.

            • Populuxe1 5.2.1.1.1.1

              Ok, you do understand that if we subsidise undie production in this country we will have to take the money from somewhere else? Or were you just proposing to wave some magic wand and perform a miracle akin to that of the loaves and fishes with said undies? Never mind, you can comfort yourself with images of starving Chinese families.

              • Draco T Bastard

                What subsidy?

                People work, get paid. No subsidy. And no need for the Chinese to starve either.

                • Populuxe1

                  “and paid well enough” = subsidy.

                  • vto

                    I know. We could just pay the same labour rates here as over there. Then we would still pay the same for undies and there will also be some jobs as undies makers.. Everyone’s happy.

                    Eh pop.

                    • Populuxe1

                      Again with this rather stupid tactic of trying to make me out to be some kind of libertarian or neoliberal. It’s very funny.
                      I want to pay NZ workers at good rates, you buffoon, that’s why I want them doing things that will grow the economy rather than just making you feel less guilty. I also want to be able to afford a robust welfare system, which for an economy like ours becomes less likely if the government is busy propping up The Great New Zealand Undies Mountain.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      “and paid well enough” = subsidy.

                      An interesting concept. So, in your view, nobody except the owners should have enough to live on?

                      that’s why I want them doing things that will grow the economy

                      Can’t grow the economy as doing so is unsustainable. Besides, we’ve been growing the economy for quite some time and poverty has been increasing. Time to do something different.

                      I also want to be able to afford a robust welfare system…

                      We already can do as we have enough resources to keep everyone in a reasonable living standard. The problem is the distribution of those resources.

                      …the government is busy propping up The Great New Zealand Undies Mountain.

                      The government wouldn’t be propping anything up. NZ would just be manufacturing enough from its own resources to keep everyone in a reasonable living standard which, in reality, is actually far less than what we produce now.

  6. burt 6

    Is there are retraining package for these workers? I think it’s great that tax payers are not maintaining a sheltered workshop but I do feel for the individuals.

  7. Rosie 7

    I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve had to put my head in my hands over the last four years, upon hearing another “genius!” announcement from our govt. One of those times was upon hearing the news that the contract for making the new fleet of Matangi trains for Wellington would go to South Korea. Time and time again we’ve seen our govt intentionally destroying jobs and the families, communities and local economies that those jobs support. Hillside is no exception and they now join the long list of workers made redundant because of our visionless spineless govt.

    All of this was in mind when I had my first ride on a new matangi train on the Johnsonville line recently. Great ride! Really smooth and comfortable. However knowing that the car we were riding in was not made here, made the trip a little bittersweet. It would have been a source of pride to NZ if those trains had been made here, not to mention the economic benefit to our people. Shame on Kiwirail.

  8. Skinny 8

    Well John Kerr your Union could have dug their toes in and gone on a nationwide strike. I understand the members have been collective bargaining for a wee while? Christ sake  railways & ports that’s real muscle to deal to this tory Government. Take a leaf out of the Maritime Union & man up or STFU.

    • Rosie 8.1

      Skinny, isn’t that a bit of a harsh judgement on the RMTU organiser? Its not their fault the workshop has made 90 workers redundant. Also, how can they go on a nationwide strike when our opportunity to strike is limited by law to a)striking when collective bargaining breaks down and b)when their is is a clear and immediate health and safety threat that managment won’t attend to. Don’t forget its not the organisers decision to strike either, even the opportunity to do so was there for them: The members have to vote on it and the decision to strike is not taken lightly by members.

      I think the members have done the best they can and the show of solidarity from the older workers is really remarkable and admirable, especially in an age when looking out for your mates clashes with the modern workplace ethos of dog eat dog.

      • Skinny 8.1.1

         I am not sure what PC world you live in? but collapsing ( breakdown) the bargaining  is child’s play. 

        You elect & pay handsomely a General Secretary for strong leadership, same applies with other paid officials. You give guidance to the membership to vote on, that Unions guidance should be ‘every body out!

        Do you know what a golden handshake is Rosie? That is when a worker closing in on retirement gets paid 30 to 50 years severance pay, commonly called ‘voluntary redundancy.’  

        • Rosie 8.1.1.1

          Er, what do you mean “PC world”? It depends on how you use that word. Are you using it in the original context in which the term refers to ones minimisation of causing offense around marginalised members of society and supporting their empowerment OR are you using the term in that lazy right wing way where the term refers to practically everything they might be opposed to for no apparent reason.

          EG: ” I hate all that health and safety bullshit these days, its all so PC”

          Either way Skinny, the world I inhabit is one in which I stand by NZ workers when they are being shafted. Sounds to me like you do too and that you’re angry with the outcome for these workers, as anyone who cares about lives of people and the future of manufacturing in NZ should do. Also sounds like you place the blame for it on the Union officials. I tend to blame KiwiRail. Maybe you know more about the job meetings the membership may have held prior to their forthcoming redundancies but I’m guessing that if the membership happened to be invloved in their annual or bi-annual negotiations and they wanted to put a motion forward to strike over this issue then they would have done. Like many Unions in NZ nowdays, the RMTU is a democratic one. It works from the ground up. Its not for the officials to boss them around and tell them what to do. Comes back to empowerment.

          Like I said before, the decision to strike is never taken lightly given the hardship this imposes on households so unless you are actually a worker and RMTU member involved (and maybe you are and thats why you take issue with the officials) its not your place to say what the Union (and the Union IS the membership) should have done. Only those affected know whats best for them.

          • Skinny 8.1.1.1.1

            Thanks for your assumptions Rosie… now point your rivet gun down at your big toe… close your eyes and pull the trigger ‘joke.’
             
             Cutting to the chase, this is really about having a GO having a go for all of us, standing up and saying enough! 

            Look at the teachers in Christchurch, is there strike lawful? No, do they care NO.   

            Play this Government at their own game of manufacturing, all be it a manufactured democracy.

             Great example is ‘state assets sales’ Nationals  trying to force on us. Fortunately the 350,000 signatures are very close. Its been easy for me personally  to sign hundreds of Kiwi’s up… rich, poor, young & old. 

            Now that’s real democracy. people saying “get lost.” 

            Back to that Union & their officials, they were in a position to stop the ROT for all of us, by a bit of ‘manufactured democracy’ of their own.  By ‘screwing the scrum’ call it what you like, but they could have done it! 

            As for those members, they have had good wages & conditions for years, so a day or two of striking is paying their dues.    

            • Rosie 8.1.1.1.1.1

              Skinny, it’s not me you should be taking up the fight with. We’re on the same side. I want to see ALL NZer’s, not just organisational bodies, standing up and fighting for their democracy and to reclaim all that we’ve lost but we’re not. Our main streets are quiet. 4 years on, too little too late.

              • Skinny

                Correct my point is if you have the muscle use it! Most workers don’t have a blunt instrument which to smack the bosses & or the Government with 🙂

  9. Jaybob 9

    I have never wanted NZ to become another state of Australia. But, this year, it seems like our only hope. Kiwi life has become so dumbed-down, dishonest, and fractured that unity with Australia seems to offer more hope than us being a Chinese-owned labour pool with natural resources.

  10. Pete 10

    Manufacturing has suffered a lot in Dunedin over the past five years. Fisher and Paykel, changes at Cadbury’s, this and a number of smaller local engineering firms. Each is a body blow to a city where there aren’t so many opportunities for people.

  11. TheContrarian 11

    First sentence of the article preview on the main page reads “Aanother sad chapter in the ongoing collapse of manufacturing in NZ.”.

    Might wanna drop the extra ‘a’ in ‘Aanother’

    • fender 11.1

      Yeah there’s no way to comprehend aanything after such a major error like that, ggood thing you ccame to the rrescue CC.

  12. mike 12

    So John Key is trying to play the ‘gee I tried hard to save them jobs’ role here? Maybe, uh, don’t go the cheaper Chinese option? Anyone remember the ‘buy kiwi made and we’ve got it made’ campaign? What was that all about? Let me see now…

  13. fender/same sentiment less eloquent Viper 13

    When the kids train set made in china broke the passengers were lucky as they were plastic also. Am not looking forward to the grown up version having the same problem, those rail accidents in slave land look very nasty indeed.

  14. fisiani 14

    In the 1900 there were more metal ships built on the River Clyde than in all the other shipyards in the world. Both sides of the river had shipyards side by side for many a mile. In 2000 there were just two shipyards left. One was building oil rigs and the other was builing naval ships. In the 70’s my father, a welder, showed me a tender contract. The Glasgow workers had submitted a tender for a ship. A Korean yard submitted a tender for the same ship and the price quoted was less than the cost of the raw materials. ie without the cost of labour.
    The shipyard in Glasgow closed in 1974 and the ramifications for employment were severe with a knockon of 1for 6 shipyard redundancies for those in coalfields, steelworkers, iron works, car factories, tyre manufacturers, retailing etc etc.
    Sadly the answer is not as simplistic as subsidising heavy engineering, an argument strong on emotion but pitiful in global economics.
    The answer is in growing the productive side of our economy. It is why I was a Socialist as a teenager but have seen the light and it is truly a brighter future.

    • vto 14.1

      sadly the answer is neither as wishful as the “grow the productive side” silliness either fisiani. That looks like one of them treadmills widdle mices run around in their cages.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.2

      The answer is in growing the productive side of our economy.

      No you moron the answer is in decreasing the amount people actually work. We have poverty simply because our productivity is already far beyond what is needed to support ourselves but almost all of it is going to support the very few while everyone else starves.

      • Populuxe1 14.2.1

        I’m not sure you can treat the real world as a game of Civilisation. But let me see if I understand: you expect businesses to pay their employees more money to do less work, irrespective of the size of the business, the lack of efficiency in increasing staff numbers, the expense of securing more skilled staff to make up the shortfall, the ethical issues with preventing someone from working when they can and want to (because while you might possibly be a lazy bastard, not everyone is by inclination) etc etc. Also Malthus and basic mathematics would suggest productivity must stay beyond what is needed to support ourselves (if we must except that ridiculous premise) because population growth and energy usage are exponential, as is technological advance. But then again I expect you want us all to live like medieval peasants.

        • Draco T Bastard 14.2.1.1

          But let me see if I understand: you expect businesses to pay their employees more money to do less work,

          The problem is productivity and who gets the rewards for the increases that we’ve seen. Over the last few decades the people who own the businesses have gotten all the productivity gains while everyone else is going deeper and deeper into poverty (yes, that includes the middle classes). This is happening because the economy has been hijacked by the capitalist class so that it only benefits them. This has to be changed so that the economy benefits everyone and ensures that a) no one lives in poverty and b) that it’s sustainable. Neither of these things apply at the moment due to the greed of the capitalists who take all the gains for themselves.

          Part of the problem is money as I said up thread. It’s not a resource and yet people treat it as one and then people also try to pay less in money than what is needed to provide the service/product that they want to buy. Given the illusion of buying cheaper Chinese made trains only results in more poverty here as well as the trains actually costing more (that poverty isn’t free) and the cost is inflated due to having to export low quality goods to pay for high quality ones.

          But then again I expect you want us all to live like medieval peasants.

          Yeah, that would be why I keep saying that we need to build high tech fab plants here.

    • RedLogix 14.3

      The answer is in growing the productive side of our economy.

      Well that sounds cool. Care to enlarge on how you think this might be achieved?

      • Fisiani 14.3.1

        9 more years!

        • RedLogix 14.3.1.1

          Of increasing unemployment and job destruction?

          Of an economy that’s still shrinking?

          By exporting record numbers of kiwi’s to aussie?

          Of a replay of the same failed 1990’s policies that led to a decade of under-performance?

          Or do you have something else in mind that the rest of us have completely missed?

      • Populuxe1 14.3.2

        Added value processing to primary products and intellectual property. That’s how it usually works.

        • Draco T Bastard 14.3.2.1

          But that’s just it, we’re not doing that and haven’t been for some time. Instead we’re focusing on having more low tech farms.

  15. xtasy 15

    I know for a fact that most NZ workers, like at the Hillside engineering works, would be too happy to put in their best efforts for a good day’s work and reasonable pay. They would not even want to expect too much in pay increases, as long as they have job security.

    But that is NOT what this government is interested in.

    It is solely pre-occupied with cost spread-sheets and comparing labour costs with that in China or Korea or elsewhere. They forget the social costs associated with unemployment, low skilled employment, lower tax takes and the likes.

    NatACT are traitors to workers, and their comments about supposedly having tried all to keep the jobs are as hollow as the promises they made to voters in past elections.

    Now surely, NZ voters must slowly wake up and see what the truth is all about.

    I am sure, with the right resources and determination, trains could be built in NZ, at least waggons and equipment. But it is not wanted, as the cheapest bidder is what counts. So also NZ is selling milk powder and raw logs in return, trying to “earn a living”, which is more and more nothing but low quality and leaving too many out of the equation.

    But the ones still hanging in there think of number one only. I am right, jack, fuck the rest, that is sadly what I see and hear of too much. This plays into the hands of Key and NatACT.

  16. Jaybob 16

    I’d rather say “we can build trains” than “we can buy trains”. If they don’t work properly, we can fix them, because we built them. In fact, we might get really good at it, building them at Tiwai Point or somewhere.

    I was thinking about Italy’s exporting success with engineering – not just sports cars and espresso machines but also typewriters, ice-groomers, and flash ride-on lawn-mowers.

    Mechanical and electrical engineering expertise tends to GROW across industries. NZ does very well in exporting engineering for marine, aviation and farming applications, to name a few, but avoids the investment in heavy engineering capacity that might be necessary in transport, such as shipping, and trains.

    We have a lot of ironsand and a lot of geothermal and hydroelectric power to turn it into steel to make ships to send our trains overseas, if only it wasn’t for the short-term focus that gets us lost in the woods.

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