OPINION: Will Aurizon board do the right thing?
I've seen some mean, low, despicable things in my time, but the heartless abandonment of their loyal workforce by Aurizon takes the cake!
Yes, the Bligh Labor government made an enormous blunder in virtually giving away Queensland Rail to this mob, but paid dearly in losing over 40 seats, and government, in the process. We punished them severely, and you can guarantee that no future Labor Government will ever repeat this.
Continuing to blame the Bligh Government will achieve nothing. We need to fix the fault - not the blame.
The current Labor government has introduced several job creating initiatives including "Skilling Queenslanders for Work”, "Back To Work”, and "Advance Queensland”.
As fast as the Queensland government is adopting schemes to eliminate unemployment, Aurizon is redoubling efforts to create even more unemployment.
Aurizon, instead of displaying gratitude for its very existence to the government that handed them such a great money making deal, is intent on undermining all these efforts of creating jobs.
Queensland Rail was the lifeblood of this region for over 100 years and there is no reason why that could not have continued to some degree.
The workshops alone employed 1100 men in the steam days, reducing to 800 when diesels were introduced, and then 550 up until Aurizon sabotaged the operation. Since the coal export traffic built up in the 1960s QR ran at a profit, and the profit continued to rise year on year.
Aurizon would never have bought the system if it had not been profitable.
I readily accept that change can and will occur and we all must adapt. But why was it so savage?
By employing so many people QR supported communities right across this state. Surely that has been a small price to pay for social cohesion, and the chance for families to function normally, and avoid being a burden on the state through social security and the other ills that accompany unemployment?
Until Aurizon got its grubby hands on it, the workshops trained up to 40 apprentice tradespersons each year providing a workforce that could build anything made of metal, wood, electrical, equipment for any home or office or vehicle. Worth keeping?
The workers were like a family, loyal to their employer and loyal to each other. This provided high productivity and contributed to the high profits of the organisation.
As for punishing train drivers by taking away their permanent employee status and making them casuals, Aurizon board members must have rocks in their heads. Drivers, in particular, are the people at the pointy end of Aurizon's earnings through the freight charged for coal haulage. Any really successful businessman will tell you it is critical that you respect your most valuable workforce and give them every support.
The takeover by Aurizon is a salutary lesson on the negative effects of privatisation, particularly on a regional area like Rockhampton. Aurizon has made it quite clear that their only interest is their shareholders, grasping even more money, and to hell with their workers.
Shareholders, in the main, are people with money to spare to invest in profitable ventures. Is it in any community's interests to prop up these individuals at the expense of hard working families who contribute so much to the local economy? Rockhampton has been kicked in the guts, and then when it is down, subjected to kicks in the head.
The board members of Aurizon deserve nothing less than complete ostra- cism. On hearing the dread- ful news, my first reaction was to advise shareholders to immediately sell their shares and invest in a company that displayed some level of social conscience.
There is one other positive action Aurizon shareholders can take: Demand that the board reverses its decision to virtually close down its Rockhampton operations. Are you up to the challenge?
- A. Bambrick, Rockhampton