Lack of diversity ‘significant’ to ‘ageing, male-dominated’ industry

The limited number of women and young people working in logistics is a severe issue which must be addressed going forward, the industry lobby says.

Australian Logistics Council (ALC) boss Michael Kilgariff says diversity – or lack thereof – is one of the biggest issues faced by the Australian logistics industry.

“The perception of the logistics industry, and the limited number of women and young people attracted to the logistics sector, is a significant issue for our industry and one in which ALC is determined to take a leadership role,” Kilgariff said on June 25.

ALC’s board last week announced a new strategic focus to “attract, support and develop diversity in the logistics industry”.

To start, ALC will organise a pair of events: the first ‘Women in Logistics Summit’ to take place in Melbourne on November 25, and the first ‘Young Guns in Logistics Conference’ to be organised in 2016.

The events are part of a decision by ALC to formally include the issue of ‘people’ in its policy focus.

“Expanding ALC’s focus to incorporate the policy issue of ‘people’ acknowledges ALC’s commitment to take a greater role in encouraging greater diversity into the logistics industry,” Kilgariff explained.

“For the logistics industry to achieve much needed productivity improvements, we need to have the best possible talent working across all parts of the supply chain.

“Our people are our most important asset, and it is appropriate we give this issue the same strategic focus as we do the areas of infrastructure, regulation, technology and supply chain safety.”

Kilgariff said many women and young people are qualified to work in the industry, but cannot access appropriate employment within the industry. Fixing this issue, he said, would benefit companies by widening the recruitment pool, and bringing a new perspective “to what is generally an ageing and male-dominated industry”.

As well as encouraging new entrants into logistics, ALC plans to work with businesses to develop better pathways for women and young people already employed by the industry.

Kilgariff said many leading logistics companies already have pro-active programs to attract, support and develop greater diversity in the workplace.

“ALC will seek to harness the good work already underway by its members and stakeholders, as well as develop new measures to support greater diversity in the workplace,” he said.

ALC will now instigate a policy committee of members to oversee ALC’s work in this area, including planning for the ‘Women in Logistics Summit’ for November.

Vic’s next-gen trains released to market

The Andrews Government has called for expressions of interest for the design, construction and maintenance of a next generation, high-capacity train for Melbourne.

The announcement is part of a $1.3 billion investment in 37 new high-capacity trains, which will be rolled out to the city’s Cranbourne-Pakenham line, Melbourne’s busiest.

Together with the removal of every level crossing between Dandenong and the city, and upgraded signalling, Andrews says the Cranbourne-Pakenham project will add capacity for 11,000 extra passengers every morning, an increase of 42%.

The Victorian premier was joined on Monday by minister for public transport Jacinta Allan, who said the release of the EOI invitation was a significant milestone in the future of public transport in Victoria.

Allan explained the new trains will be longer than existing trains – able to carry more people with every journey – and will use the latest technology, making them safer, more reliable and more comfortable for passengers.

“These trains will be built in Victoria, for Victoria,” she said. “The EOI represents what this Government is all about: local jobs, skills and better public transport.”

The state is demanding that at least 50% of the construction of the trains is done locally, with companies required to demonstrate how they will boost local employment, training and investment through the delivery of new trains for Melbourne.

Minister for industry Lily D’Ambrosio said the focus on local content would drive growth in the local supply chain, and support high-skill, high-value manufacturing in Victoria.

“This is the first time any Victorian Government has made local jobs, skills and investment a central part of rolling stock procurement,” D’Ambrosio campaigned.

“We’re supporting local manufacturing by making sure trains that carry Victorians are built by Victorians, and support Victorian jobs.”

The 37 new trains are part of the Labor Government’s rolling stock strategy, Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-2025, which outlines a ten year plan for 100 new trains, 100 new trams and a significant boost to the regional train fleet.

An industry briefing will be held on 6 July 2015, and the EOI period will close in August 2015.

Programmed gets Skilled

Labour hire company Skilled Group has agreed to be taken over by Programmed Maintenance Services.

Programmed will acquire Skilled by way of a scheme of arrangement which will see the former’s shareholders receive 0.55 Programmed shares plus $0.25 cash per Skilled share, resulting in Skilled shareholders owning 52.4% of the combined entity.

The offer is valued at $1.79 per share based on Programmed’s last closing price and represents a 45.5% premium to Skilled’s closing price on 22 May 2015, the trading day before the announcement of discussions between Skilled and Programmed.

Skilled’s directors are urging shareholders to vote in favour of the scheme, in the absence of a higher offer.

Skilled chairman, Ms Vickki McFadden said, “The near term financial benefits to Skilled shareholders resulting from this transaction are compelling. The combination of Skilled and Programmed creates the opportunity to unlock substantial synergies in the first year following implementation, and beyond.

“The combination will create a larger, more diverse business with the funding flexibility to support a range of organic growth and acquisition opportunities, and an enhanced equity market position.

“Our two organisations share a focus on delivering solutions that make our clients more productive and competitive. The company’s enlarged scale in staffing, maintenance and facilities management will facilitate lower costs, better customer service and enhanced organic growth opportunities.”

Chris Sutherland, Programmed CEO, will lead the combined organisation and as such, Angus McKay, Skilled CEO, will leave the company.

Scholarships for children of KiwiRail staff

The sons and daughters of ten current KiwiRail employees have been awarded scholarships of $2000 towards their tertiary education.

KiwiRail Group, funding the scholarships, says the money is intended to enable employees’ children to undertake a first undergraduate degree or diploma at a New Zealand university or polytechnic.

Up to ten scholarships are awarded annually.

Of this year’s recipients, two are studying at the University of Auckland, three are at Massey University, two are at the Victoria University of Wellington, and one each are at CPIT, the University of Otago, and the Auckland University of Technology.

“The scholarship is part of KiwiRail’s commitment to growth and continuous improvement,” the company said this week, “which includes the continued investment and growth of their employees and their wider whanau, and supporting youth development.

“As an employer, KiwiRail makes a significant contribution to the growth of New Zealand including the employment of diverse communities in central and rural areas of New Zealand.”

Universities New Zealand, also known as New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, administers the KiwiRail scholarship in addition to 40 other undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships each year.

Applications for the 2016 KiwiRail Scholarship close on 1 December 2015.

 

Aurizon Train

Aurizon reaches deal with half of Queensland workforce

Roughly 1700 of Aurizon’s staff could soon be under a new long term enterprise agreement (EA), after unions and the rail operator reached an in-principle agreement on Thursday.

Aurizon is engaged in a protracted bargaining saga with several unions over the replacement of 12 expired EAs. Together, the expired deals covered around 3500 staff, including 1700 train crew and operations staff, and 1800 construction and maintenance workers.

A new EA has been agreed to, in principle, covering train and operations staff.

The proposed Train Crew and Transport Operators EA includes a 4% pay increase each year for three years, in return for “significant productivity enhancements and enhanced work flexibility including modern rostering practices,” Aurizon said on Thursday.

The EA also includes the removal of the ‘no forced redundancy’ provision.

Also under the deal, rail passes will be removed for the majority of employees. Passes held by employees with more than 25 years of service will be valid for long distance travel until 2018.

Aurizon announced the in-principle deal in a short statement.

“The in-principle agreement is not yet binding on the parties and is subject to more detailed documentation, a formal ballot of employees and approval of the Fair Work Commission,” the company said.

“Subject to final drafting, it is intended that the new Train Crew and Transport Operators EA will be distributed to employees by the end of June, with employee briefings and a formal ballot to be held during July.

“Pending a positive vote, the new Train Crew and Transport Operators agreement would then be lodged with the Fair Work Commission, seeking implementation in August.”

Aurizon also hopes to reach a deal covering the remaining 1800 employees, the Construction and Maintenance EA.

While expired EAs typically remain in place until they are renewed, Aurizon secured permission from the Fair Work Commission in April to cancel expired EAs.

Shortly after an appeal of that decision by the unions was heard in the Federal Court, Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge announced that the company had chosen to exercise that right, and cancelled the old EAs.

This means the 3500 workers formerly covered by those EAs have only been covered by the Rail Industry Award (2010), the National Employment Standards, and individual contracts, since May 21.

Aurizon train on Queensland Rain Network. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon names new Chairman

Rail operator Aurizon has announced who will replace John Prescott as its chairman.

The company’s board announced on Wednesday that Tim Poole will formally become a director of Aurizon on July 1, and will assume the chairmanship on the retirement of the present Prescott on September 1.

“Tim brings proven, highly relevant and impressive credentials to the Board of Aurizon,” Prescott said.

Poole’s appointment follows Aurizon’s decision last year to form a Nomination and Succession Committee to evaluate the Board’s future requirements, develop a new strategy for Board renewal and a timetable for succession including the orderly transition to a new chairman.

Poole began his career in 1990 at Price Waterhouse helping build Hastings Funds Management between 1995 and 2007. He became managing director in 2005.

Poole is currently chairman of the investment committee of AustralianSuper, chairman of infrastructure debt investor Westbourne Capital and chairman of Lifestyle Communities Limited.

He is also a non-executive director of Newcrest Mining Limited, McMillan Shakespeare Limited and Japara Healthcare Limited.

He was formerly chairman of Asciano Limited (2007 to 2009) and formerly a non-executive director and treasurer of Victorian Racing Club Limited (2006 to 2014).

“Tim’s success in leading large institutional investment organisations reflects both his strategic insight and analytical skill as well as a strong focus on good corporate governance and creating value for shareholders,” Prescott said.

“The smooth transition to a new chairman reflects our plan to ensure we have the right calibre of leadership around the Board table and within the business, and that we have the right balance of skills, experience, diversity and operational capabilities to implement our strategy.”

“I am delighted to be joining Aurizon as it enters the next stage of development” Poole said.

“The Company has transformed in the last decade under John’s leadership. I am looking forward to working with the Aurizon team to deliver value for shareholders.”

Network Rail - Photo Network Rail

UK rail union secures big win

A UK-wide rail strike was called off on Monday after owner/operator Network Rail offered an improved package to unions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union on Monday suspended a planned 24-hour work stoppagefor Thursday, after it received a revised offer from Network Rail.

Network Rail reportedly offered the union a sweeter deal, which includes a 2% pay raise for 2015 backdated to January 1, as well as a guarantee of no job cuts before 2017.

The offer, which was tendered following talks brokered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, also includes a pay raise from January 1, 2016.

The union said it would present the offer to members on Friday, allowing it to cancel this week’s planned action, as well as a two-day strike planned for next week.

“Following extensive ACAS talks throughout the weekend RMT has now received a revised offer that enables us to suspend the planned industrial action,” the union’s general secretary Mick Cash said.

Cash said the union planned to “consult in full on the details of the revised package with our Network Rail representatives.”

Network Rail, which operates, maintains and develops Britain’s rail tracks, signalling, bridges, tunnels, level crossings, viaducts and 18 large stations, says it wants to resolve the labour dispute, but wants a fair deal.

“Our people know that there are ways to improve the way work is done,” National Rail chief executive Mick Carne said on May 28.

“I have always said that if we work together to realise these benefits there is the possibility to increase pay.”

Following Monday’s announcement, Carne said: “I am very pleased that the industrial action has been suspended. With ACAS’s help, we have had very constructive talks with the unions over the weekend and I hope they will be able to agree this deal.”

Coal wagons Aurizon. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon cancels EAs, may give back to investors

While headlines point to a potential bigger dividend from Aurizon in coming months, the rail operator has cancelled enterprise agreements with roughly 3500 workers.

The Queensland-based operator is in the middle of a prolonged bargaining saga with a number of unions. 12 expired agreements are still in dispute.

Under the Fair Work Act, expired enterprise agreements remain in place until they are replaced with new agreements.

But in what Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge at the time called “a landmark decision,” the Fair Work Commission in mid-April ruled that Aurizon could terminate the 12 agreements.

Hockridge had agreed to wait until an appeal by the unions had been heard by the Federal Court, but with that hearing taking place last week, the operator announced the termination of expired EAs on May 21.

Workers who were under the cancelled deals will now be covered only by the Rail Industry Award (2010), the National Employment Standards and individual contracts, which the operator describes as “less favourable” to workers.

“The termination of these old agreements means a range of legacy conditions that are a hangover from government ownership and restrict Aurizon from making changes in a competitive market, will disappear,” Hockridge said.

Aurizon says it has offered employees a 4% per year wage increase over three years, in return for the introduction of a range of work practices and productivity measures “already widely accepted in Australian industry”.

The sides can’t come together, but Hockridge says they are getting closer.

“We are pleased with progress in our negotiations with unions since the [Fair Work] Commission’s decision in April,” he said.

“That decision has certainly been a catalyst for renewed focus around the bargaining table on the outstanding issues.”

Meanwhile Aurizon is also reportedly considering a boosted dividend in its upcoming 2014/15 results, in an effort to address investor concerns over weak growth prospects.

“Aurizon’s strong balance sheet continues to offer capital management opportunities,” a company spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Australian Financial Review this week.

“Any further capital management opportunities will be considered by the board as part of the 2014/15 financial results.”

Confidence in the operator has also dipped after it acquired a share of a major iron ore project just months before the commodity’s price took a significant hit.

Aurizon now holds an exclusive contract to develop a railway for the West Pilbara Iron Ore Project, after it joined forces with Chinese steelmaker Baosteel to acquire Aquila Resources in a $1.1 billion bid in 2014.

But after averaging US$100.56 a tonne in May 2014, the iron ore price has dropped to roughly US$60 a tonne so far in May 2015.

On May 11, the operator announced a formal push-back of the Pilbara plans, but key shareholder Perpetual has expressed its desire to see the project permanently shelved by Aurizon.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

ARA begins search for new CEO

Executive recruitment firm Jo Fisher has begun its search for the next chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association, with the role advertised late last week.

Former chief executive Bryan Nye formally left his post at the end of April. As a result, the industry body is currently being run by interim chief operating officer Phil Allan, and interim chairman Bob Herbert.

But the association is well on its way to finding its next chief executive, with job ads popping up in a number of different mediums last week.

Recruitment agency Jo Fisher posted one such ad to popular job site SEEK on Thursday, May 21.

“The Australasian Railway Association (ARA), the peak membership based body representing the rail industry – passengers, freight and track operators, contractors and suppliers – is seeking to appoint a leader to take the organisation through an exciting phase of change for the long term delivery of value adding services to its national membership,” the agency wrote.

“The role reports to a Board, representative of the industry and committed to policies and their advocacy to enhance the prosperity and standing of all facets of rail in the Australian and New Zealand economies.”

According to Jo Fisher, ARA’s next boss “will be experienced in leading change, with an ability to focus on the strategic direction for rail”.

“The ideal candidate will demonstrate political acumen with excellent stakeholder management, advocacy and media skills,” the ad continues.

“The role also entails a commercial orientation, the management of budgets, and the leadership of its Canberra-based professionals.”

See the ad here.

Level crossing Victoria - Photo: Creative Commons

Friday is Walk Safe to School Day

The TrackSAFE Foundation is encouraging primary school children to take extra care when heading to school on Friday for national ‘Walk Safely to School Day’.

General Manager of the TrackSAFE Foundation, Naomi Frauenfelder, said that WSTSD provided an opportunity for parents and carers of primary school-aged children to promote safe pedestrian behaviour, not only when crossing roads but also when near railway lines and pedestrian crossings.

“An estimated 250,000 Australian school students use the rail network to commute to school, largely unsupervised, each day,” Frauenfelder said.

“It is therefore important that days like ‘Walk Safely to School Day’ serve as a reminder to children and their parents of the risks involved when crossing or standing near rail lines.”

Frauenfelder said students regularly take risks near platform edges, and at pedestrian crossings.

“This is why TrackSAFE has developed an Australian first, national education initiative called ‘Be on the Safe Side’, for primary school students to learn about train and track safety,” she explained.

Be on the Safe Side provides teachers with learning resources to conduct engaging student- centred lessons within various Australian Curriculum learning areas with a train and track safety theme.

TrackSAFE says the program provides consistency in rail safety education throughout Australia, and empowers students to improve their own and others’ safety when they are near trains and train tracks.

“I encourage all children heading to school today to look, think and be on the safe side,” Frauenfelder continued.

“Stand behind the yellow line; hop off your skateboard or bike when crossing tracks; wait when the lights are flashing and gates are closed; and remove your headphones at crossing and on station platforms.”

For more visit www.tracksafeeducation.com.au