Things are heating up. The workers at Hillside Railway Workshops, their families and supporters, are determined to draw attention to the Government’s short-sightedness.
Workers are convinced that the 40 job-cuts already announced are just the beginning. The Government seems determined to shut Hillside down.
So what’s the fuss about?
If Hillside is shut down, it will affect hundreds of Dunedin families. Not just the workers at Hillside, but also at the firms that sub-contract to them. And the decision is a crazy one.
KiwiRail is awarding contracts for new rolling stock to overseas companies. They are doing this because it makes their own ‘bottom-line’ look good.
I don’t blame KiwiRail. I blame the Government. The National Government is the owner of KiwiRail and a major source of its funds. As an owner, they can instruct KiwiRail to consider whole-of-economy benefits when making decisions. Instead, the Government is saying: “take the cheapest price”.
The money being spent on train purchases is taxpayer money. Instead of being used to keep Kiwis in work, it is going offshore to help train overseas workers. This is nuts. First, jobs are being lost at a time when unemployment is rising in NZ. Second, the overseas workers supported by these contracts will not pay income tax to the NZ Government, nor GST when they buy their groceries.
Simple maths tells you that if the Government pays a little more to have these wagons made in New Zealand, it gets this money back through taxes – and a bit more.
On top of this, Hillside has a reputation for top-quality work. This reduces whole-of-life costs for the wagons built. And local subcontractors make money. They pay taxes too.
Overall the NZ taxpayer (you and I) will be worse off if these jobs are cut and work goes overseas. And all because the Government is refusing to look at the bigger picture.
An editorial in the Waikato Times makes this point well: state-owned companies should be forced to work in New Zealand’s interest, not just their own.