WORKERS have described mixed emotions on their return yesterday to Wangaratta’s fabric manufacturing plant for their first shift with Australian Textile Mills.
Roshan Chaudhary was among 123 employees who kept their jobs after Bruck Textile Technologies went into liquidation on July 11.
“I have lost some of my friends ... it won’t be the same,” he said ahead of his shift.
Mr Chaudhary expressed sorrow for the 60 workers made redundant but said he was thankful to still have a job and keen to start work.
The workers who have made the switch to Australian Textile Mills will keep their entitlements and work conditions after they were transferred to the new company.
Yesterday new signage had been erected at the front of the factory and cars filled the car park.
Machines were fired up, cleaned and inspected by the first wave of workers who started their shift at 11pm on Sunday, working to 7am yesterday.
Fabric handler Rodney Stokes said everything looked the same, although there were some noticeable gaps between production.
On the production line was one new product — Cool Blind.
The factory will make stockpiles of the fabric to be dyed and coated on site before it is sold locally and exported to the US.
Workers attended a group meeting with factory manager John O’Connor ahead of their shift.
“There’s definitely some mixed emotions,” he said.
“The issue about losing their workmates is raw.”
Mr O’Connor said the workers also raised the issue of trust.
“It’s something we will have to work on over time, to build it up,” he said.
An Australian Textile Mills spokesman said when a site went through so much change, there was going to be some trepidation among workers.
“One of the big things today is giving the workers an update of the company strategy,” he said.
“The factory is focusing on new areas, looking at more of a niche market and competing less on price and more on innovation.
“We are in the testing stages of a stab-proof fabric for defence that will flow on to police.
“It’s just one of six new products that are in stages of development.”