Outsourcing - the boon of Asian workers and the bane of western employees - is about to hit an Australian rail operator. Reports said that QR National will shed 500 jobs mostly in Queensland as it transitions from a state-owned company to a listed firm.
However, while the restructuring aims to address financial problems inherited by the rail firm from the Queensland government in the areas of carting coal and railway maintenance, The Australian reports that QR plans to outsource the construction of coal wagons.
Those to be affected by the changes are employees of QR's maintenance depot at Redbank. At the same time, QR plans to put in place more flexible rostering arrangements for train drivers, while work done at smaller depots such as Hughenden, Charleville, Mt Isa and Emerald, would likely be done at larger depots.
However, QR stressed that there would be no sackings and forced relocations. Instead, the firm would offer voluntary redundancies. In 2010, when Queensland sold the company, 900 people initially expressed interest in the voluntary redundancy offer but only 600 eventually accepted the offer. QR, in its statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, said the exact number of redundancies would be dependent on feedback it would receive from workers and union during consultation.
QR anticipated that the number of people who would avail of the voluntary redundancy could even exceed 500. The firm currently has 9,000 employees.
"Our cost base is too high when compared to competitors and rail industry peers. While QR National continues to grow, we need to better serve customers and improve our operating and financial performance if we are to safeguard an ongoing strong future for our company, our employees and shareholders," The Australian quoted QR National Chief Executive Lance Hockridge.
Prior to the sale of QR, employees were assured they would be safe from lay offs for at least three years. However, in exchange for a lifetime employment security, the firm gave them a one-off payment of $4,000, 4 per cent salary hike, and $1,000 worth of shares in the QR float.
Those who held on to their shares had their shareholding boosted since news of the changes led to a 4.83 price in stocks on Tuesday to $3.47.
If at least 500 QR jobs are on the chopping block, over 400 employees of the collapsed Hastie Group were spared from becoming unemployed. This development was the result of the buyouts of two Victorian companies.
PPB Advisory, the administrator of Hastie, identified the buyers as Cooke & Carrick, which is in hydraulics business, and D&E Air Conditioning, which provides airconditioning and mechanical services. PPB did not disclose the amount of the buyout.
The administrator said it expect to sell three more companies of the collapsed engineering group. These three firms have 50 employees between them.
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