Aurizon plan to dump enterprise agreements in Qld

Rail freight company Aurizon has accused the unions of wanting to retain ‘outdated’ working conditions as it moves to terminate 14 enterprise agreements in Queensland.

The move comes after the company announced plans to cut 480 people from the state’s workforce.

Aurizon said it would apply to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the EAs today.

The company said it had been bargaining with unions in good faith for more than a year without ‘meaningful progress’.

It said deals around hours of work, rostering, redundancies and free rail travel remained sticking points, accusing union representatives of wanting to preserve ‘outdated legacy working conditions’.

“Throughout the process, Aurizon has reinforced the need for fair, competitive and commercially sustainable EAs that are reflective of contemporary Australian work practices”, the company said in an ASX announcement.

Specifically, Aurizon said clauses that are no longer sustainable include no forced redundancies or relocations, hundreds of pay classification points and allowances and anicillary payments which it said are above base wages.

“These agreements are placing significant and unreasonable restrictions on the company that impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service and well as imposing additional costs on the business.”

Aurizon said the current 14 EAs, which expired in December 2013, were negotiated four years ago prior to the company’s privatisation in 2010.

The company said this means there have been no productivity or efficiency changes in Queensland’s EAs in six years “while employees have received wage increases of at least 4 % per year”.

If the current EAs are terminated, employment will be regulated by The Rail Industry Award 2010, The National Employment Standards, and Employees’ individual contracts of employment.

Aurizon said as part of its application to the Fair Work Commission, it will undertake to maintain a number of the current terms and conditions, such as base wages, certain allowances, superannuation, leave accruals and redundancy pay.

“Aurizon, as a publicly listed company operating in a highly competitive environment, is not prepared to remain in a union-driven “holding pattern”,” the company said.

Meanwhile in New South Wales, Aurizon has lodged its new enterprise agreement with the Fair Work Commission, following workers’ vote to accept the deal last month.

Stalled negotiations led to a bitter industrial dispute in the state earlier this year which saw rail workers go on strike for 48 hours and Aurizon lock out its employees.

Aurizon CEO Lance Hockridge said the NSW bargaining process “represents a fair agreement, with appropriate rostering and workplace flexibility.”

He said the deal will contribute to the company’s continued success in its NSW coal business.

The four year EA includes a 12 per cent pay increase over three years and a reduction in working hours from the fourth year.

Australian Mining has sought comment from the Rail Tram and Bus Union.

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