Today marks the 113th anniversary of our longest standing member’s association with Ai Group. 

Sadly, it’s also the last as John Heine & Son, a family-owned ferrous foundry and machine shop established in Sydney in 1886, is closing after 137 years.  

The business became one of the first members of the organisation now known as Ai Group when it joined on April 4, 1910. 

It’s the right time to close, says chairman (David) John Heine, whose great-grandfather started the company and whose great-uncle John was president of the Metal Trades Employers’ Association (MTEA) — another predecessor to Ai Group — in the 1940s. 

“An associate, who also leads a family-owned foundry, made the observation that quite often the family outgrows the company,” said Mr Heine, pictured with son Timothy John and grandson Tristan John. 

“That’s really what’s happened with this company.  

“In previous generations, just about every male member of the family joined the company and then it started to thin out by the time it got to my generation. 

“Now Tim is the only one in the family from his generation working in the business. 

“So, it’s time.” 

For John Heine & Son, 113 years of consecutive Ai Group membership has been as sure as keeping the name John in the family. 

“There has been an expectation within the family to retain the membership,” Mr Heine laughs. 

“The main benefit over the years has been IR support. 

“There was a lot of industrial action in the 1960s and ‘70s, during which time we drew heavily on the IR people at (Ai Group predecessor) Metal Trades Industry Association (MTIA).  

“The unions were very powerful at that stage; they used to go on strike for the smallest thing. 

“There were other MTIA members in the same situation, so we used to come together and have a chat.  

“Ai Group coordinated and monitored a monthly meeting for members in the south-west Sydney area, where we are now based. It was helpful to talk to other members to learn how they handled certain situations.” 

Ai Group remains as relevant as ever, Mr Heine said. 

“More recently, we had an HR person who was in touch with Ai Group on at least a monthly basis and sometimes on a weekly basis to keep up to date with what’s new,” he said. 

“We have a list of all the different legislations and regulations we need to comply with, and it ran to a couple of pages. 

"Ai Group has been an invaluable resource for us; it’s worth the money that we’ve been paying.” 

Mr Heine’s plan is to enjoy retirement. 

“It took me a while to consider the pros and cons of selling, but I'm quite happy now,” he said. 

“We are one of the last few family-owned foundries in Australia, but I’ve made my peace with everything and having fully retired, there’s no time to go to work anymore. 

“Now is the right time to move on.” 

John Heine & Son has been a member of Ai Group since 1910. 

“Ai Group has been an invaluable resource for us over many years. We drew heavily on the IR expertise of (Ai Group predecessor) MTIA in the 1960s and 70s when the unions had a lot of power. Ai Group keeps us up to date on the latest legislation and regulations.” — John Heine, Chairman, John Heine & Son 


Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is Communications Manager at the Australian Industry Group. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, the News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.