AFTER more than 40 years, production at the Downer EDI facility at Kelso reached the end of the line yesterday.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union site delegate and machine shop supervisor Andrew Dundas said the last 14 production workers responsible for maintaining locomotives and rail traction motors at the facility had their final day on the job yesterday.
“It is our last day of production, the last day the boys are all on the job, all operations will now close,” he said yesterday.
“It comes to a dead stop now, the plant will cease to exist.”
Mr Dundas said workers had a barbecue breakfast yesterday morning to mark the final day.
“The mood was pretty sombre, but it has been that way for the last two weeks. It’s a difficult sort of thing to grasp,” he said.
In October last year, company executives notified staff they were starting a 20-day period of consultation on plans to move all local work to Cardiff, near Newcastle, and the Newport plant in Victoria.
In deciding to wind up the plant, EDI Downer claimed it could save $6 million by closing the plant and consolidating its business operations.
“We had more than 90 workers here back in October last year, but everyone was slowly put off bit by bit,” Mr Dundas said.
He said over the past few months staff at the Kelso facility had been training around 30 people from Newcastle, who would be taking over production.
Downer EDI spokesperson Michael Sharp said around 100 employees, including boilermakers, electrical mechanics, spray painters, fitters and administrative staff, were affected by the closure.
He said while the majority of staff had chosen to take a redundancy, half a dozen had decided to work in production at Cardiff.
Mr Dundas, who has worked at the facility for nearly 30 years, said the 14 staff who finished up yesterday had all chosen to take a redundancy.
“I have a couple of weeks of technical support up in Newcastle left ... and then I am finished,” he said.
“The guys are not leaving here with empty pockets and it needs to be that way in a marketplace like this. In terms of our type of work there is not a great deal out there.”
Mr Dundas said the future of many of the staff who had spent decades working at the plant was now uncertain.
“While they were offered jobs in Newcastle, a lot of people have families, mortgages and kids here, they are based here and it is to difficult to go.”
Mr Dundas said it was sad to see the Bathurst institution close its doors.
“I remember the plant here in its biggest time, I remember in the 1990s when we would have 230, 240 people working on a 24/7 type of operation ... there was so much work we were knocking stuff back,” he said.
“This is the end of era for Bathurst and something this town will never see again.”
Mr Sharp said Downer had the rail operation at Bathurst for more than 40 years and had not made the decision to close the facility lightly.
“There have been significantly lower volumes coming through Bathurst in recent times and there was a clear and compelling business case to move the work that has been carried out at Bathurst to our Cardiff facility, near Newcastle,” he said.
“Downer has communicated regularly with the people affected by this decision over the past six months and provided extensive assistance and support in what is obviously a difficult time for them.”
He said that over the next month around 30 people would be working on the closure of the facility and transferring the work to Cardiff.