Aurizon defends layoffs while aiming for growth

AURIZON'S bid to spend millions of dollars in acquiring Aquila Resources, while workers are being sacked at the Redbank railway workshops, has been described as "outrageous" by the Electrical Trades Union.

Aurizon announced it would seek to acquire the company in a joint bid with Baosteel Resources but that has gone down like a lead balloon with ETU state organizer Jason Young.

"Aurizon are trying to cut wages and conditions of their employees so they can increase profits, and then turn around and spend millions on purchasing another company," Mr Young said.

"We think that is outrageous. It is speculation on the back of workers' misery.

"There will be 42 Redbank workers who will lose their jobs at the end of June, and overall 300 to 350 will lose them in the closure that has been announced (for 2017).

"They should focus on their own business, and if they want to save some money they can start by cutting their CEO Lance Hockridge's wage. He is on $6.1 million a year."

Mr Young also criticised Aurizon's application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate workers' enterprise agreements

"They have made an application…because they can't get their own way in bargaining.

"It is basically like a kid having a dummy spit because they have been bowled out in a game of cricket.

"We want to negotiate, but they are locked in and adamant that they want to get rid of the no forced redundancies provision and they are prepared to do anything and everything within their power to do it.

"We wrote to Aurizon and invited them to withdraw their application to terminate the enterprise agreement and invited them back to the bargaining table.

"We met with them, but they are locked into their position and we are now going to have to go away and talk to our members."

But Aurizon has defended its expansion plans and said the union was "locked into the past".

"Aurizon's proposal to build rail and port infrastructure for iron ore in Western Australia is all about expansion, the future and new jobs in growth sectors," a spokesperson said.

"We've made no secret of the drive to become a modern, efficient rail and logistics business. Aurizon is seeking new growth opportunities while addressing old practices and surplus capacity inherited from government ownership.

"The unions' about being locked into the past, preserving old work practices and legacy provisions that are non-existent in enterprise agreements of competitors.

"We committed more than 12 months and 70 days of meetings to bargain with unions. We have offered a 4% wage increase per year for three years in return for productivity improvements and removal of legacy provisions seen nowhere else in the rail industry in Queensland. On multiple occasions the company's position has been rejected by union bargaining representatives and delegates without a counter proposal being put forward."

After no progress on substantial issues, the spokesperson said that on April 2014 "Aurizon requested the unions consent to the Fair Work Commission arbitrating the outstanding matters".

"The unions rejected this.

"These are some of the reasons why on May 12 Aurizon made an application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the 14 existing Queensland-based Enterprise Agreements.

"Aurizon remains firmly committed to (reaching) agreement on the terms of new EAs that are fair and commercially sustainable."

Topics:  aurizon job cuts redbank railway workshops

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