Interview: Staying Alive
Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Industrial: Last Drinks
National Focus: Around the States
Politics: Radical Surgery
Education: The Price of Missing Out
Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
History: Massive Attack
Culture: What's Right
Review: If He Should Fall
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The Locker Room
Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
War and Peace
A Strange Light
A Little History
Does It Have To Be?
Trevor O'Hoy's dream of becoming Fosters boss of bosses, according to the business paqes, will swing on bottom line improvements from his decision to close a Sydney icon. Chris Hamilton, on the other hand, might trade in his blue workman's overalls and become Mr Mum to three young daughters.
"The fact is I might have to stay home for three years and look after the girls," the 16-year veteran of Carlton United's Kent Brewery says.
"My wife's a forensic scientist and if she went back to work she would probably make more money than I could get anywhere else. We've got three girls under five and she's on maternity leave but that might have to change. It's something we are considering."
Hamilton is one of 600 workers who will be having similar conversations with partners and families over coming months.
The Hamiltons have already shelved plans to extend their Concord home.
The closure call, announced from the Melbourne office of CUB's managing director O'Hoy, will affect thousands of Sydneysiders and the city they call home.
The vast Carlton United brewery, sprawling over five and a half inner city hectares, has been a landmark for near-on 170 years.
It assails the senses as you approach the city from the west. Eyes take in bricks, loads of them; noses get hops and barley; but, in recent years, middle class ears have had it with the sounds of hardcore industry in their increasingly-gentrified neighbourhood.
Interestingly, back in 1835, the brewery went up on that part of Broadway because it was out of the city-proper. That, and the fact that nearby Blackwattle Creek provided a steady stream of clean, clear water.
At its peak the Kent brewery churned out a head-spinning 30 million litres of beer a week. It employed all sorts, from apprentices and labourers to sparkies and boilermakers. In days gone by, tradesmen that history has been less than kind to, the likes of coopers and blacksmiths, would sign in every day.
In the early days, as Tooths, there were horses and liberal daily doses of arsenic, the accepted substance for cleaning out stables in those times.
Even when the Melbourne suits made their final decision the facility was still pumping out 22.5 million litres every week.
Some of the brand names - Rechs, KB, Tooths, VB, Fosters, Carlton, Cascade and Sterling - are as Aussie as a cold one on Friday arvo.
There had been talk of closure back in the mid-90s, around the time the last cooper, old Jack Rutledge, was walking out the gate after 47 years.
But workers and management got their heads together and figured out new, smarter methods of work to keep the place ticking over.
"We did a lot of things differently because everyone wanted the place to survive," Hamilton explains. "There was give and take but we didn't give away our conditions.
"They were fought for by people who worked here a long time before I did. They weren't really ours to give away."
Hamilton was like most of his workmates. His first reaction to the news was shock, especially at the totality of the closure.
From the final lights out, in 2005, CUB will brew nothing in New South Wales, although the state accounts for roughly half of its national sales of both packaged and draught beer.
Now that the news has sunk in workers are reflecting on good times and long-standing friendships
"This was a great place to work," Hamilton says. "I've really enjoyed my time and made a lot of good friends. We got on well with the Sydney management and tried to work together for everyone's benefit.
"The people are like family. I'm certainly not one of the long-serving workers. A lot of guys have been here 30 years and longer. We regard anyone who has done less than 10 years as a newcomer."
He has no doubt about his fondest memory of the place. It was when he met his wife, then a lab technician.
They figured it would be better not to live and work together so she became a drugs analyst.
"Jeez, you must have good parties," is a refrain they hear every time they reveal their respective occupations.
Also high on the positive list from the last 16 years have been the wages, conditions, comradeship and the always appreciated weekly allowance - equivalent to about one and a half cases of the employer's product a week.
The allowance took the place, as OH&S awareness grew, of the traditional schooner at morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and knock-off time.
The worst day in Hamilton's time at the brewery was undoubtedly Monday, April 14, when, after 167 years, the company called time on the oldest continuous manufacturing plant in Sydney.
But now the shock has worn off and people are getting their heads together, looking for a better redundancy settlement and help in retraining or finding alternative employment.
The company wants 40 scalps within a couple of months, another 60 by next February and the lights out by February, 2005, so the wrecking ball can do its thing.
A group of delegates from various unions, headed by site chairman Lincoln Tylee, will negotiate the nuts and bolts. Filtration operator Hamilton will be one of their number.
He doesn't mind a tipple and VB has long been his drop of choice although Crown Lager gets the nod when he has some celebrating to do. Right now he doesn't see Crownies on the menu.
But, if Hamilton could just pitch himself forward a couple of years, would he still see himself reaching for a VB after a long, hot afternoon over the ironing board?
"That's an interesting question," he admits, "I guess a lot depends on what happens over the next few months."
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