ROCKHAMPTON Bishop Michael McCarthy has spoken out in support of hundreds of Aurizon workers told they would lose their jobs with the closure of the city’s railway workshops.
“I stand with the workers,” Bishop McCarthy said. “Workers who support families, have bills to pay, support our local businesses and are an integral part of our central Queensland family.
“The workers and their families are in my prayers at this difficult time, and as the impacts of this unfold.”
Unions, politicians and workers have expressed anger and dismay after freight operator Aurizon announced jobs would go as part of a major overhaul of its operations needed to remain competitive.
The historic maintenance workshops in Rockhampton will be closed and redeveloped by the end of next year, affecting 181 workers.
A further 126 train crew positions would be phased out in central Queensland, to be replaced by 70 contractors.
In Mackay and Townsville, 62 jobs would go where haulage contracts had been finalised.
Aurizon, Australia’s largest rail freight operator and a top-50 ASX company, said it would work to offset the losses by relocating workers where possible, however, the company’s head of operations Michael Carter said “it was a tough market”.
“… Sometimes what’s best for all of our company, for all of our company’s employees … in doing that sometimes very unfortunately some towns have bigger impacts than other towns,” Mr Carter said.
Bishop McCarthy said the Aurizon decision was “a blow to workers, our towns and our local economy”.
“Rockhampton has a long and proud history as a railway town, and has been a key location for railway services to the region and further north and west,” he said.
“The railway has helped to grow our local area and support families over several generations.”
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Rohan Webb told Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin his union was keeping an eye on the psychological state of its members.
“We’ve got to understand the mental health of our workers,” Mr Webb said.
“Someone who has worked here for 40 years, and they’ve no longer got a job anymore.
“They’ve got a family. They’ve got kids at school. We don’t know what the psychological damage could be.”
State Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne said he condemned Aurizon “for abandoning our community”.
“This is a company that in February this year announced a twenty-one per cent increase to underlying earnings before interest and tax of $488 million for the half-year and total revenue of $1.8 billion,” he said.
“This is clearly not a company that is failing or struggling to make a dollar.
“These redundancies are the result of pure greed and complete lack of social conscience.”