The remaining shell of the HWP car showroom and body shop yesterday. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
The remaining shell of the HWP car showroom and body shop yesterday. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, AUGUST 26: The HWP fire claimed its first human victims yesterday as the auto company announced 21 job losses in the wake of its “catastrophic” blaze.

The fire, which ripped through the body shop at HWP’s Pembroke headquarters earlier this month, caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

And bosses are still counting the cost of the fire in lost revenue.

Revenue

They say they had “no choice” but to cut staff in the areas directly affected – the paint and body shop and parts department.

Don Mackenzie, chairman of the firm which employs 115 people across various businesses such as its car dealership, service stations and auto repair, said the company had done everything it could to preserve jobs.

But staff were informed in a meeting yesterday that the company could no longer afford to retain them. Mr Mackenzie said the announcement had not come as a surprise to many of the workers, who had been waiting to hear their fate since the blaze on August 8.

An estimated ‘two-thirds’ of jobs lost are in the paint and body shop, with the bulk of the remaining redundancies coming in the parts department, due to lost inventory and work.

Mr Mackenzie said the Bermuda Industrial Union had been involved in redundancy discussions. And he vowed the company would do all it could to help them find work elsewhere.

“We are trying to look after the employees,” he said.

“This was a hard decision to make. We’ve spent the past two weeks looking for any possible way to protect the staff.

“We’ve tried to reduce all non-payroll expenditure. The problem is loss of revenues.

“You’ve got the damage to property caused by the fire, which is in the millions, and then you’ve got significant reduction in revenue.”

Asked if HWP was likely to survive in the long term he said: “We are working to make that happen.

“This has been a catastrophic fire.

“We were able to reopen some of our operations within a couple of days but even those departments that have restarted are not at pre-fire levels.

“We are trying to keep those operations going, serve our customers and do the best job possible.”

He said the job cuts were the only option in the interests of the survival of the firm.

Fire engulfed HWP’s car showroom and body shop around lunchtime on August 8.

Flames were seen bursting from the building, sending plumes of black smoke soaring hundreds of feet into the sky.

The shells of burnt-out cars could be seen behind the shattered windows of the showroom the next day.

Construction crews have since moved in to clear up the damage but HWP reported massive irreparable losses to key aspects of its business.

Jonathan Brewin, President and CEO of HWP, said, “We are not in a position to employ the same staff levels due to the financial impact of the fire.   

“We simply cannot regain the lost revenues that have occurred as a result of the destruction of our body and paint shops, showrooms, parts depot, administrative offices and IT and communications systems.

Destruction

“All of our efforts are on minimizing sustained reductions in our employment levels.

“Although the HWP team has been incredible and has worked tirelessly to resume operations, the fact remains that the destruction of our facilities and inventories has caused significant reductions to our revenue stream.”

The public can contact the HWP customer service hotline at 295-5000. Information updates are posted www.hwp.bm and www.facebook.com/HWPGroup