82 Southland disabled workers face losing jobs over cost cuts

There's growing anger in Invercargill, with revelations more than 80 disabled workers are set to lose their jobs.

They're part of a production line crew, sorting recycling from around Southland. But their jobs could be lost to a cheaper option.

For the 82 staff at Southland disAbility Enterprises (SDE), their workplace is much more than just a job.

"This is everything to me, it means everything to me," says worker Chantelle Gutsell.

For eight years, the not-for-profit company has been sorting and separating recycling from wheelie bins across the region.

"SDE is their lifeline to giving them a purposeful life. These people cannot work out in a normal job," says Linda Mooij, the mother of  an affected worker.

WasteNet - which is owned by the Southland, Invercargill, and Gore Councils - has its eye on a new, cheaper contractor which could put these workers on the scrapheap.

"It's not just a workplace for them. It is a family environment. And also, if they were to lose their jobs, the impact on family if they had to give up work themselves," says SDE HR manager Janine Cruickshank.

Rochelle Stewart's brother Paul started working here 23 years ago. She says losing SDE would be a massive upheaval.

"It's not about money - well it shouldn't be about money. It should be about the livelihood of these guys that work here," she says.

The community is rallying around affected families, with a petition gaining than 16,000 signatures.

WasteNet spokesman Gary Tong is disappointed confidential details were leaked and insists the process is still "live".

The families plan to lobby councillors and mayors to try and change their minds, before the final decision is made in early June.