Queensland transport minister Jackie Trad has directed Queensland Rail not to award bonuses to its executives this year, as the passenger operator continues to work its way out of a damaging driver shortage.
The decision comes roughly 12 months after hundreds of services were suddenly cancelled on a Friday morning, due to a sudden – and seemingly unforeseen – shortage in available train staff.
Some criticism of the operator focused on Queensland Rail’s then-chief operating officer Kevin Wright’s $77,000 performance payment.
Wright resigned two months after the initial driver shortage incident, amid yet another ‘rail fail’ on Christmas Day.
In all, Queensland Rail executives were paid $286,000 in bonuses in 2016.
This year that number will be zero, according to Minister Trad.
“I knew that there was work to do to get Queensland Rail back on track so the board and I directed QR not to award executive bonuses this year,” Trad was quoted by the Courier Mail this week.
“As we have been doing all year, we are getting on with the job of fixing the trains and delivering reliable, convenient services that Queenslanders can rely on.”
QR is still working to recover from the dramatic end to 2016, which led to the Strachan Inquiry into the operator’s hiring policies, and the powerful Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU)’s influence over it.
The union has subsequently criticised QR, and the Government, after the Strachan Inquiry recommended that 200 required positions be filled by external hiring – a measure the union says is in breach of the enterprise bargaining agreement between it and QR.
Roughly 100 drivers have so far been recruited from within QR, but Trad said in September the need for new drivers was too important for her or the operator to be concerned with following the union’s wishes on the other 200.
“We committed to implementing all the recommendations of the Strachan Inquiry and external recruitment is an absolutely critical part of that,” Trad told the ABC a month ago.
“Queensland Rail has consistently worked in good faith with the unions and believe they have met all their obligations under the existing enterprise agreement. We make no apologies for fixing the trains and giving Queensland commuters the services they deserve.”