It’s Robin to the rescue

FOUR former Albury Watters Electrical workers have got new jobs with the sale of the failed business’ Shepparton office.

The former owner’s rescue of part of the group won’t include Albury but will save the jobs of workers at its Cobram operation.

Watters in Albury shut its doors last month with the loss of about 80 jobs.

Shepparton businessman Robin Knaggs was not willing to disclose the sale price for the buyback yesterday, which also includes an office at Eildon.

Mr Knaggs doubted whether a buyer could now be found for the Albury or other offices.

“It’s too far gone now,” he said.

Mr Knaggs had been involved in the business from 1980 after which he embarked on a major expansion that led to sites in Bendigo and Port Melbourne.

The Albury office was established after Watters bought collapsed Albury machine manufacturer and electrical contractor Eldeco Pty Ltd in 2002.

Watters went bust last month after the $500 million collapse of the Hastie Group.

“Some of the staff have been with me for 30 years and what happened wasn’t their fault,” said Mr Knaggs, who sold Watters to Hastie in 2007.

“It was a business that I started and you don’t want to see it go off the face of the planet.

“Some of the Albury guys will keep working for us on jobs that Watters had going.

“Hopefully they’ll then operate out of the Shepparton office. There are four of them.”

Nine former Watters apprentices in Albury recently got new jobs following the efforts of ATEL — Apprentices Trainees Employment Limited.

Border businesses EDC, of Wodonga, and GPE Electrical and Communications Contractor, of Albury, took on five and four apprentices respectively, while EDC also employed one former Watters project manager and two tradesmen.

Mr Knaggs said while he had been enjoying his time away from the business, his “passion for people” left him no choice but to rescue Watters.

He said there was a lot of excitement among his workers; the next step was to win back customers who had gone elsewhere.

Mr Knaggs said it took him a couple of weeks to secure the deal.

Three weeks ago administrators of the Hastie Group saved about 400 jobs with the sale of two Victorian businesses — Cooke and Carrick Pty Ltd and D&E Air Conditioning.

The large commercial hydraulics business Cooke and Carrick is based in Tullamarine with 134 employees while D&E Air Conditioning in Rowville has 274 workers.

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