‘PAIN BE­ING FELT ACROSS RE­GION’

260 Ost­wald Bros work­ers made re­dun­dant

Chinchilla News - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Gille­spie

THE po­ten­tial demise of civil con­struc­tion firm Ost­wald Bros has sent shock­waves through­out the Dar­ling Downs, as res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers reel from the news the Dalby-based com­pany handed the reins over to ad­min­is­tra­tor Price­Wa­ter­house­Coop­ers on Mon­day.

On Wed­nes­day, hun­dreds of work­ers were sacked after the ad­min­is­tra­tors of Ost­wald Bros handed down the find­ings of an ini­tial re­view.

Der­rick Vick­ers of Price­Wa­ter­house­Coop­ers said 260 staff were made re­dun­dant and 140 work­ers would re­main stood down as he and fel­low ad­min­is­tra­tor Sam Mars­den con­tin­ued to in­ves­ti­gate the strug­gling civil con­struc­tion com­pany.

The de­ci­sion came after Price­Wa­ter­house­Coop­ers stood down all staff for 48 hours while ad­min­is­tra­tors car­ried out a re­view of the busi­ness.

A life­line may be thrown to 140 em­ploy­ees who have been asked to con­tinue to stand down, pend­ing the out­come of dis­cus­sions with lead con­trac­tors on a num­ber of sites that could see these projects re­turn to op­er­a­tion.

“This is not a de­ci­sion we have taken lightly, and we ex­plored all op­tions for con­tin­u­ing the en­tire group’s op­er­a­tions on a busi­ness-as-usual ba­sis,” Mr Vick­ers said.

“Un­for­tu­nately the cur­rent po­si­tion of the com­pany is such that this was not pos­si­ble.

“How­ever, we are in dis­cus­sions with con­trac­tors at sev­eral sites and are hope­ful that up to 140 em­ploy­ees will be able to re­turn to work early next week.”

Cred­i­tors will learn more about the fi­nan­cial po­si­tion of the com­pany at a meet­ing on Septem­ber 6.

On Tues­day, Toowoomba Su­rat Basin En­ter­prise ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Shane Charles said the trou­bles at Ost­wald Bros were re­flec­tive of the en­tire civil con­struc­tion sec­tor.

“Civil con­struc­tion over the past few years has been re­ally tough,” he said.

“Ost­wald Bros aren’t alone – ev­ery­one has been do­ing it tough for the past few years.

“A bit of it was com­ing off the back of the gas in­dus­try – peo­ple had geared up for that mar­ket, and when that stopped, peo­ple were com­pet­ing for the same work.

“I’m aware of other com­pa­nies where mar­gins are skinny.”

CEO Bren­dan Ost­wald pointed to on­go­ing con­trac­tual dis­putes with ma­jor projects as the rea­son for the board’s de­ci­sion to en­ter vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion.

West­ern Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh, who has known Mr Ost­wald and his fam­ily for years, said a worst-case sce­nario would cause pain across the re­gion if the com­pany was un­able to trade out of trou­ble.

“We’re ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed that this has hap­pened – they’re a com­pany that has had tremen­dous goals,” he said.

“Hope­fully they man­age through this, but no one can know what will hap­pen now.

“If it does go the wrong way, there will be pain all across the re­gion.”

TOUGH TIMES: Ost­wald Bros CEO Bren­dan Ost­wald handed the reins over to ad­min­is­tra­tor Price­Wa­ter­house­Coop­ers on Mon­day.

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