Railworkers down their tools

KiwiRail workers in Tauranga stopped working last week in protest at KiwiRail employing contractors to do their job.

Rail workers in the yard became aware on Thursday morning KiwiRail had brought in contractors to undertake track work without consultation and in breach of the protocols that exist between the employer and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, says general secretary Wayne Butson today.

“They got pretty angry about it. Our regional organiser arranged for a stopwork meeting to occur. They discussed it for a while, met with company officials at the end of that meeting and nutted out a resolution, which saw the contractors leave the work.”

It is not an isolated incident, says Wayne. There is an almost identical situation on the West Coast and there is another this week in Dunedin.

“There is definitely we think some level of capriciousness at work within KiwiRail management.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn has not had his contract renewed, says Wayne.

“We believe it’s part of a wider push by the government and the KiwiRail board to attack our core terms and conditions in rail, and to see more and more work contracted out to the likes of Fulton Hogan and Downer and co.

“Some of the work that’s contracted out there is no argument about, because we don’t have the skills in house - constructing bridges and stuff like that, that’s not what we do.

“But when it comes to track maintenance, joint remediation work and that sort of thing, that’s what we do.”

Keeping track work in house has been proved the most cost effective way of doing it, says Wayne.

“We have been through the experiments of contracting it out, outsourcing and so on and it proved that it was more expensive.”

Independent Tauranga MP Brendan Horan says the incident is, “rubbing mud in the face of workers”. 

“In late 2012 during the ‘Turnaround Programme’ restructuring, solemn promises were made to the workforce.  KiwiRail is now flagrantly breaking those promises.  It is anything but a good employer,” says Brendan.

“I am concerned that the combination of the National Party Government, with its record of bad employment legislation, and unscrupulous employers are once again combining to undermine trust in our workforce. The action of State-Owned Enterprise KiwiRail is a recipe for industrial unrest.”

KiwiRail’s assertion it would not contract out core work was made late last year when the government owned railway shed more than 200 jobs from its maintenance and engineering side of the business, says Brendan.

“It’s a real kick in the face for them and undermines any trust they had built up.

“It would be fair to say they are not a happy bunch of campers.”

Brendan’s former political leader Winston Peters is also talking about rail today in Northland where he is warning the Northland rail link in in danger of being closed by a clearly anti-rail government that has a clear agenda to undermine and dismantle much of New Zealand’s rail infrastructure.

National sold NZ Rail in July 1993.The purchasers asset stripped and ran railways down with railway shares plunging from $9 plus a share to 28 cents a share. Within three weeks of the sale announcement the purchasers’ share price went up massively.

This sale never went to tender.

NZRail financial adviser at the time was Fay Richwhite who was also one of the buyers, says Winston.

National closed the Hillside Workshops in Dunedin at the end of last year putting 115 men out of work, following earlier redundancies for 44. KiwiRail preferred to select overseas tenders to manufacture rolling stock rather than accept bids from Hillside.

Hundreds of rail maintenance workers were sacked last year.

National has continued to refuse to support the Auckland City Rail Link, while it puts more than $10 billion into its Roads of National Significance programme.

The closure of the Napier - Gisborne line after it was washed out in a storm should serve as a stark warning to all of Northland says Winston. Northland rail links are similarly vulnerable.

“They did it to Napier-Gisborne line and they will do it the line North of Auckland if they can get away with it,” says Winston.

“National are so short-sighted and ideological that they would be quietly delighted to see another rail link abandoned.”

Winston says the Napier –Gisborne line was abandoned because the government could not find $4 million – one million less than the three year salary for the head man at Mighty River power, a fifth of the cost so far of trying to fix the Novapay debacle.

“The money could have been found to save the Napier-Gisborne line but the Government had absolutely no will to do so,” says Winston. “We have a government that is not only anti-rail but also anti-regional development.”

KiwiRail is struggling under the financial limits of its “turnaround” plan, and signalled in its latest annual report that the Northland line is marginal from a financial point of view.

“The blunt fact is that KiwiRail is locked into a financial straightjacket that does not apply to the major roading projects,” says Winston.

“What that means is that the Northland rail line is threatened.”




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2 Comments

New employment

Posted on 19-06-2013 17:12 | By Jennifer

legislation which National are trying to bring in will result in this being a ’norm’ in the workplace for all workers except those with employers who believe in good employer/employee relations ....

No commonsense

Posted on 19-06-2013 14:34 | By Fonzie

Good piece of reporting here

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