Hope and uncertainty in aftermath of HWP blaze
About 78 percent of HWP staff will return to work today as the company fights back against the massive blaze that threatened its future.
The company will reopen for business “on a restricted basis” with 90 of its 115 staff working from buildings on the north side of St John’s Road in Pembroke.
Bosses are keen for HWP to return “to some sort of normality” after a devastating inferno on Monday destroyed its body and spray centre, car and bike showrooms and administration offices.
It has been the company’s priority to once again serve its customers, but uncertainty surrounds the 25 workers who have not been asked back to work.
President and CEO Jonathan Brewin said all staff continued to receive full-pay but he couldn’t rule out job losses.
HWP is expected to take advantage of the currently unused building on Cox’s Hill Road. This is where its cycle showroom was housed until it moved to the south side of St John’s Road in February to reduce rental costs.
This will be a temporary move until the company’s shareholders have decided whether to rebuild on the same site or look for new premises to rent.
Mr Brewin said “good progress” was being made to get the business up and running again, but said it was “far too early” to talk about long-term plans.
He said: “Our priority has been to get things open again.
“It’s very early days and there are lots of possible options as we move forward, but we are having successes and moving forward.
“We are making every effort to complete all mechanical work as soon as possible and HWP is now open for business, albeit on a restricted basis.
“We will be working manually, as our computerised systems are down, so we ask for patience from our customers.
“Mechanical services anticipate that they will be able to run on around a 50 percent capacity for the time being.
“The biggest issue will be in the parts department which relies heavily on a computerised inventory system.”
The company’s computer network was destroyed in the fire but bosses are hoping to get it fixed as soon as possible as “absolutely everything is automated nowadays”. HWP’s database was last night transported from Bermuda to the UK in the hope that software providers can “come up with quick solutions”.
The fire started at about 2pm on Monday in the body and paint store and ripped through the rest of the building on the south side of St John’s Road.
The building’s walls and roof collapsed in the fire and the remaining frontage was demolished yesterday due to safety concerns.
Bosses are yet to put a cost on the “catastrophic” damage but it is expected to total millions of dollars. The blaze destroyed 12 customer cars, plus up to 10 showroom vehicles.
Mr Brewin added that they were going through all the paperwork, but it was too early to say if all the fire damage would be covered by insurance.
HWP’s car and cycle sales will reopen today as the company still has “a handful of vehicles” available to sell. This includes Hyundai and Skoda cars and Peugeot, Honda and Aprilia bikes.
And Mr Brewin is hopeful that a container of new vehicles will arrive by the end of the week to “help replenish stocks”.
Mechanical services and the parts store will also reopen today at a reduced capacity, but customers are reminded that without a computer system, everything has to be done manually.
This could include longer waiting times as logging the number of spare parts and inventories have to be done by hand.
The RUBiS gas station reopened yesterday lunchtime, but is only accepting cash sales. A customer notice on the pumps reads: ‘Due to circumstances beyond our control, all transactions must be cash’.
However the company’s paint and body shop and administrative areas will “remain closed for the foreseeable future.”
The company says it is “humbled and grateful” for all the offers of assistance it has had from businesses and individuals.
This includes neighbouring company Air Care, which has stepped in to house the company’s temporary call-centre. On its first day its five telephonists were “inundated” with calls from concerned customers asking about destroyed cars, car warranties and spare parts.
Don Mackenzie, chairman of the HWP Group, said: “We are heartened at the support and kindness from the public and business community.
“Again we also wish to publicly thank the fire and police departments for their professionalism in dealing with a devastation situation.”
HWP workers, who were at the scene yesterday, told
The Royal Gazette they “just wanted to know what the future holds”.
An administration worker said “the uncertainty hanging over our heads” was the worst thing for her to deal with.
She said: “It is hard because we all have so many unanswered questions.
“We just want to know what is going on, whether it is good or bad news.
“If I lose my job then I lose a job, I know the company has lost so much more. I feel sorry for the company, it can’t be easy sorting everything out”.
Another worker from HWP’s cycle division looked at the remaining part of the HWP building being ripped apart by bulldozers and said: “I never thought it would go this far, this is bad”.
The worker said he was “very concerned about his job” but said he understood it would take time for his bosses to “get to the bottom of everything”.
He said: “Considering everything that’s happened, morale among staff is still quite high. Some smiles are being seen, we are trying to be positive.
“We are hoping for the best and just trying to carry on, we just want some normality back”.
For information and assistance, customers can call the temporary HWP call-centre on 295-5000. Regular updates are also being posted at www.hwp.bm