About 180 employees are expected to be impacted as Aurizon announces plans to close its Rockhampton rollingstock maintenance workshop, and 190 more train crew members will go as a result of changed workforce conditions in the region.
The freight operator announced the Rockhampton closure on Thursday, along with a proposal to move to more flexible train crewing operations in Central and North Queensland, as a result of changing customer needs.
Aurizon said the changes, which will be phased through to late 2018, are necessary to address the varying demand in the resources sector as well as changes to the company’s operating footprint.
Of the 181 workers at Rockhampton, roughly 40 may find work at Aurizon’s Jilalan facility at Sarina, where most of the Rockhampton work is being consolidated.
Meanwhile, 126 permanent train crew positions are expected to be phased out in Central Queensland in the next 12 months, to be replaced with around 70 locally-based train crew contractor positions.
In North Queensland, the end of a deal with Wilmar Sugar will see the further reduction of roughly 62 permanent positions including train crew, freight operators and leaders at Aurizon’s Mackay and Townsville depots.
The Mackay depot will also be closed as a result of the changes.
Head of operations Mike Carter said as market demand had changed in recent years, Aurizon’s business had changed significantly as well.
“Aurizon needs to continue to change in line with what our customers need if we are to remain competitive,” he 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.”
Carter said the move would involve engaging more contractors. “This will result in reducing the number of permanent full-time train drivers,” he said.
The changes are in addition to the staged closure of the Rockhampton rollingstock maintenance workshop by late next year.
“The amount of work required at this workshop has significantly reduced in recent years,” Carter said. “It is a legacy facility – designed for a different operating footprint in a different time – and is not located close to our operations in the Central Queensland Coal Network.”
Aurizon said it intends to explore all options for employees including retraining, redeployment and redundancy.
The Rockhampton Workshop was first established in 1870s and includes a ‘roundhouse’ previously used to move locomotives into various maintenance bays. The heritage-listed roundhouse is largely preserved and provides an ideal opportunity for integration into any future urban redevelopment, Aurizon said.