Transport branch closes, taking 27 jobs with it

WARRNAMBOOL’S unemployment list has swollen with the loss of 27 jobs this week after administrators closed the Wettenhalls trucking branch.

Another 63 positions at Laverton, two at Lara and 34 interstate were also axed as corporate recovery consultants Ferrier Hodgson trimmed down the trucking empire, closing its Express division and Warrnambool branch.

Remaining sections of the business, including Colac, are being offered for sale under an expressions of interest process which closes at 4pm tomorrow. 

Transport Workers Union senior organiser Chris Fennell said he hoped a sale would proceed and cover superannuation entitlements of the retrenched workers.

Other entitlements will be covered under the federal guarantee scheme.

Mr Fennell said there were mixed reactions to the retrenchment.

“Some were in shock, others who had been looking for a package were happy,” Mr Fennell said.

Ferrier Hodgson partner Brendan Richards said he would be working with all stakeholders to see if the government could fast track employee claims taking into account the financial hardship they would be facing.

“Unfortunately as a result of our investigations during the weekend, it became clear that there was no option but to close the Express business and the Warrnambool office,” Mr Richards said.

“With the depressed transport volumes being experienced across the industry, it became impossible to maintain the viability of the business.”

The Wettenhalls Group, which had been bought by Colac-based Amezdroz and Son in 1997 before being bought by international investment firm Blackwood Capital in 2007, employed about 350 transport workers and about 100 support staff nationally.

Two years ago it teamed with Westvic Container Export Services to carry containers of south-west products to Westvic’s rail terminal depot in west Warrnambool.

Westvic managing director Warrick Loft said yesterday the rail freight operation had continued, apart from one missed day, with help from several local transport operators.

“We’ve had tremendous support from customers and local transport companies to keep the freight moving,” he said.

“In the next 48 hours I hope to make an announcement on our future arrangement. 

“We’ve always traded as a separate identity to Wettenhalls. They paid rent to me as a landlord for the infrastructure.”

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