| New Zealand News | Friday April 20 2012 6:05
The proposed sale of KiwiRail's Hillside facility is being blamed on the Government looking offshore for workers.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson says the new trains for Auckland is an example of a project KiwiRail was overlooked for.
"While this Government continues to send New Zealand work to the rest of the world, rather than looking after it's own citizens, then yeah, all jobs in New Zealand are under threat."
But Wayne Butson says the announcement to sell is better than the alternatives of closing completely, or slowly shedding jobs.
The financial woes of the two Otago businesses are believed to be more a reflection of the companies, rather than the region's business health.
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie says the region itself is tracking well.
"Basically these decisions are reflections on what's happening within their industry, and within their sector groups. On the wider front I think Otago's very healthy in terms of what those prospects might look like fro the future."
Mr Christie says the Hillside sale could be a big benefit to Dunedin if the company which buys it, is able to expand outside the rail sector.
The decision to sell Dunedin's Hillside engineering facility is being seen as the lesser of two evils.
Dunedin mayor Dave Cull says it's been a tough climate in recent years for Hillside, and a sale is better than the alternative.
"We were facing the prospect of Hillside declining over the years and eventual closure, there's been a fair bit of speculation about that so this is an opportunity to test the market."
Mr Cull says Hillside's future all rests on who the new buyer is and what they want with the facility.
It's hoped disruption for workers will be kept to a minimum as the engineering facility goes on the market.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson says there are 123 workers at Hillside the new owner needs to consider.
"We look forward to working with that person to ensure an orderly transition for these workers across to the new employer, retaining their terms and conditions of employment."
Mr Butson says the Government needs to stop sending work offshore.
Council of Trade Unions Secretary Peter Conway says the Government should ensure the workshops remain in public hands.
He says a decision not to bid for the 500-million dollar contract for Auckland's new trains is a big factor.
"That would've meant our procurement policy in NZ including something about New Zealander ind getting a fair go, and also KiwiRail committing to that investment."
Mr Conway says the workshops are an important part of the regional economy.
Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei believes it's wishful thinking and highly unlikely that a private firm will pick up the rail workshops.
"What I think we would see happen is a large number of the people who work at Hillside will end up going overseas. They're very highly specialised high skilled workers. It will be very difficult for us to retain that level of experience and skill here in New Zealand."
Metiria Turei says it doesn't bode well for the ongoing maintenance of KiwiRail's rolling stock
Image: NZ Herald