FIGHT FOR JOBS: Keppel MP Brittany Lauga has gone into bat against Aurizon for the hundreds of Central Queensland workers impacted by mass sackings, announced in June.
FIGHT FOR JOBS: Keppel MP Brittany Lauga has gone into bat against Aurizon for the hundreds of Central Queensland workers impacted by mass sackings, announced in June. Luke Mortimer

'Callous decision': MP fronts Aurizon over mass CQ sackings

A "CALLOUS decision” to close Aurizon's Rockhampton workshop has Brittany Lauga MP catapulting CQ's concerns straight to the top.

The Keppel MP will front the rail giant today after hundreds of Central Queensland jobs were slashed ahead of a staged closure ending 2018.

Mrs Lauga launched an ongoing, scathing attack on the company, labelling it as greedy and "lacking social conscience”, since the imminent shut down was made public in early June.

Today, she demands the 180 redundant jobs be reinstated and will express her disagreement to Aurizon's proposal to turn the workshop into a unit development.

Mrs Lauga also plans to discuss a proposal to lure automotive parts supplier and military technology group Rheinmetall to the soon-to-be vacated Aurizon yards.

Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga vows Aurizon haven't heard the last of her as she fronts the company today.
Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga vows Aurizon haven't heard the last of her as she fronts the company today. Orin Lucke - Blink Photography

Capricornia Chamber of Commerce president Peter Fraser yesterday shared the business body's vision for the company to take up operations in Rockhampton.

As well as providing an economic injection, Mr Fraser argued, among a series of points, the sale of the facility to Rheinmetall provided a "perfect exit strategy for Aurizon”.

Capricornia Chamber of Commerce president Peter Fraser.
Capricornia Chamber of Commerce president Peter Fraser. Tamara MacKenzie ROK141016cbafra

"In the event of a lease, at least income from the facility whilst it is being utilised by Rheinmetall for the production and/or maintenance of their vehicles, would keep this "on hold” until Aurizon further review their long term strategies for Central Queensland,” he said.

Mrs Lauga's meeting today follows a series of stern letters penned to company, calling on it to return sacked workers and their families to the "dignity, certainty and positive outlook” that comes with permanent employment.

She said she will also quiz the company on its bewildering backflip since it told Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow several years ago that Aurizon saw Rockhampton as a strategic hub for its operations and a centrepiece for its business into the future.

The Morning Bulletin reported in July Aurizon had suggested the site be developed into a residential block, but the company responded they "planned to work with community representatives on future redevelopment opportunities to create a valuable community asset for Rockhampton”.

Aurizon workshops on Bolsover Street.
Aurizon workshops on Bolsover Street. Allan Reinikka ROK010617aaurizon

"This remains an active consideration and we hope to work constructively with community representatives in the future,” a spokesperson said in a July 19 report.

Mrs Lauga has also called for changes to the Fair Work Act to stop companies such as Aurizon from blatantly sacking permanent workers and replacing them with contract and labour hire.

In the immediate weeks after workers were told of their imminent job losses, Aurizon confirmed Redbank contractors attended the Rockhampton workshops to learn the jobs they would replace.

Australian Manufacturers Workers Union organiser Peter Lyon labelled the move a "mongrel act” as employees were already plunging to "rock bottom”.

Ahead of the meeting, Aurizon backed their stage closure and deemed it a "tough but necessary” decision to respond to changing customer demand.

Auizon workers at a rally where Senator Kim Carr addressing Aurizon rail workers outside the Bolsover Street depot in Rockhampton.
Auizon workers at a rally where Senator Kim Carr addressing Aurizon rail workers outside the Bolsover Street depot in Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK040717cauizon4

"The staged closure, with a long lead time through to late 2018, was to allow employees to look at options, including retraining and redeployment,” an Aurizon spokesperson said.

"Already, a number of employees have taken new roles in Rockhampton and other Central Queensland locations for Aurizon, including five employees starting as trainee drivers. 

"The long lead time also allows for constructive discussions to occur with community and government representatives on how we can use the site for lasting community benefit. 

"Aurizon will continue to have a large presence in the Rockhampton region with more than 650 employees across its various businesses, and a total of 2,000 employees across Central Queensland.” 

Mrs Lauga is expected to provide a statement later today regarding her meeting with Aurizon.



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