A degree in tough labour management relations at the Ky Cannery

Well qualified: John Hausler earned a degree during his time at the cannery.

John Hausler had a long career at The Kyabram Fruit Cannery that meant a lot to the community by providing jobs and stimulating the economy.

One of toughest moments in his career came when many of his co-workers lost their jobs.

“The worst part of my career was in December 1981,” Mr Hausler said.

The fruit processing and canning departments were closed down after the intervention of IXL in December 1981, which brought its jam and spreads production to Kyabram.

As the paymaster, Mr Hausler had to work out the redundancy payouts for all the workers.

“A lot of those people were good friends,” he said.

“I was called a fortnight in advance to say people where being made redundant and if I let anyone know at all, that I would join them.

“My baby wasn’t even one year old, I couldn’t afford to lose my job.

“So I am walking around with this burden on my shoulders, socialising with good friends knowing they’re about to lose their livelihoods and I couldn’t say a word.”

He spent three days doing all the calculations for redundancies to prepare for it at such short notice but negotiations with IXL broke down and it was pushed back a fortnight.

“I would’ve preferred to get it over and done with as I had to sit with one of the biggest secrets in town for another two weeks,” he said.

This meant he had to recalculate everything to add the additional two weeks.

Mr Hausler started at the Kyabram Cannery in 1978, assisting the paymaster on a seasonal basis.

He was approached at Christmas 1980 to become paymaster and was given until the new year to make a decision.

“It was Christmas Eve, I was called into the office by the financial controller at the time,” he said.

“The financial controller said: ‘I’m either gonna give you a Christmas present or a headache.’

“He said our current paymaster has resigned and asked me if I’d take the position but I had till the new year to decide.”

Mr Hausler had 19 days to make that decision.

At that time, workers would make a lot of money for working large amounts of overtime but by taking this position, Mr Hausler was going to be on a fixed salary.

“I would’ve made a lot more money staying where I was,” he said.

“I looked at it in a way that you’ve gotta take the opportunities when they come.

“It ended up being the best decision in my life as it turned out that the following December, they shut the whole operation.”

Mr Hausler spoke about how when he became paymaster, the relationships with close friends and colleagues changed dramatically.

“They would not talk to me after I became paymaster,” he said.

“It was the union/staff divide.

“It was really disappointing as I hadn’t changed, I just wanted to take a step up.

“It was the start of the season, we used to employ 1300 people.

“I got thrown to the walls in 1980, looked after the payroll for the whole factory.

“I’d start at six o’clock in the morning and wouldn’t get home till 10pm at night.

“At the same time, my wife had our first child who was born in January 1981, which was right in the middle of the season.

“I was trying to balance a brand new job while trying to raise our first child.”

A couple of years later he was promoted to human resources manager, where he stayed until he finished in 2004.

Mr Hausler, while working full time at the cannery, was able to graduate with a Diploma of Business (Labour Management Relations).