Aurizon outrage: Mums, dads, kids rally against rail giant
"FAIL, Aurizon, fail.”
The message was loud, clear, and unanimous.
Hundreds turned out in Rockhampton's Kershaw Gardens this afternoon protesting over the job cuts to an industry in the blood stream of the city.
On June 1, the company announced 181 Rockhampton workers would lose their jobs, as well as another 126 employees working at the Bluff, Gladstone and Stanwell depots.
The signs and banners were out and such was the mood of the protesters there would have been pitch forks if possible.
Mums, dads, kids and more, all angry, sad and desperate.
All the while passing cars beeped constantly in their show of support.
With her words as sharp as steel, Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow scathingly slammed the rail giant to the crowd.
"I cannot believe these people, who have been in their board room less than five minutes think they have the right to decision we are no longer a rail community,” Cr Strelow told the crowd.
"We began our journey in 1865 and have been a railway town ever since. For someone to sit in a boardroom and decide this is not the case. It is appalling.
"This cannot be the status quo going forward.”
Joined by fellow Councillors Drew Wickerson, Tony Williams, Neil Fisher and Rose Swadling, Cr Strelow vowed to help the workers fight on.
And fight they will.
"This is a broad community issue and council understands this, our role call here is strong,” she said.
"We will stay with you.
"Only three years ago the same people sat in my office and told me Rocky was going to be the centre of their rail universe. We then had good people move here from interstate because this was going to be the hub of future work. Now short term thinking will get rid of these loyal workers.
"They only care about profits and it is an absolute fail.
"Their reputation is their weak point. We need to make sure the anger does not fade. This should be the beginning of a continuing campaign that only ends when your jobs are back.”
When the job cuts were originally announced, Head of Operations Mike Carter said the Aurizon business had changed significantly in recent years in line with changing market demand.
"Aurizon needs to continue to change in line with what our customers need if we are to remain competitive,” Mr Carter said.
"Historically, most of our train crew have been permanent full-time employees and we have been unable to match fluctuations in weekly and monthly demand in train haulage services from coal customers or contract wins or losses.
"As a result we are proposing to change the composition of our train crew workforce in Central and North Queensland.
"This will involve engaging more contractors to provide greater flexibility for our customers. This will result in reducing the number of permanent full-time train drivers.
"In addition we have also commenced consultation with employees on the staged closure of the Rockhampton rollingstock maintenance workshops by late 2018.
"We have undertaken a review of core maintenance requirements for our Queensland rollingstock fleet and our future maintenance task will be best delivered at our newer facilities at Jilalan (Sarina), Stuart (Townsville), Willowburn (Toowoomba) and Callemondah (Gladstone), with components supply and non-core maintenance sourced from third parties.”
Mr Carter said Aurizon recognised the impact these changes may have on local jobs and the regional economy but would work to offset the losses by undertaking a review of which metropolitan based roles have the potential to be relocated to Rockhampton and other regional centres.