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KiwiRail confirms job loss plan

Published: 6:02AM Monday September 24, 2012 Source: ONE News

KiwiRail has today confirmed it will begin meeting with the 158 staff that are to be made redundant within its infrastructure and engineering business.

The announcement has been met with some relief from staff and stakeholders, as KiwiRail had originally proposed cutting around 220 jobs.

Cuts are part of a wider $200 million restructure of the state-owned enterprise.

KiwiRail Infrastructure and Engineering General Manager, Rick van Barneveld, said that staff will be informed this week which roles are going to be disestablished. 

"We've worked very closely with the union and staff to ensure all those affected have the information they need, and understand the process," he said.

Van Barneveld said the more than 70 staff members had already taken up the offer of voluntary redundancy.

"Despite our best efforts, some mandatory redundancies will be unavoidable," he said.

Forty two of 213 current jobs will go in KiwiRail's Northern region, 58 of 244 in Central and 40 of 193 in the Southern region. The Track Machine Team & Railweld division will lose 18 of its current 64 roles.

In all, KiwiRail is reducing its 714-strong infrastructure and engineering work force to 556.

"At this stage we don't know the final number as every effort will be made to retain the skills and talents of our staff by finding other opportunities for them at KiwiRail."

Van Barneveld also admitted that the restructure of the business is part of a wider programme to rebalance KiwiRail's priorities in response to continuing economic uncertainty.

"Like most businesses, we haven't been immune to the effects of a sluggish economy. Delivering this kind of news to our people is never easy.  But it's a necessary step for us to achieve the savings we need to make the improvements to the rail network that customers want."

KiwiRail intends to spend $750 million on the network over the next three years.

It is thought that the change to the new structure will be completed by the end of October.

KiwiRail employs 4100 staff nationwide.

KiwiRail a 'victim'

Although Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RTMU) General Secretary Wayne Butson admits that it is somewhat gratifying to see that KiwiRail has revised the number of redundancies, he believes that the Government need to look into whether they are necessary at all.

"We'll see more temporary speed restrictions in place and a greater potential for derailments and other critical incidents, with customers and staff paying the true cost of the cuts," he said.

Butson said that those set to lose their jobs are people who maintain and inspect the tracks, bridges, and culverts.

"With rotting Peruvian sleepers and hundreds of wooden bridges beyond their centenary of service, the last thing KiwiRail should be doing is laying off skilled workers," he said.

Butson also said that the union has fought hard to save as many jobs as possible.

"Our union pushed KiwiRail to take volunteers for redundancy and to not fill vacancies, and this has meant that the total number of compulsory redundancies is down to 29. That's still too many, but it's better than what we were facing," said Butson.

Butson also said that he was disappointed that KiwiRail was a "victim" of Government policy.

"We have an opportunity to create employment and build a world class integrated transport system using rail, and instead we're running it into the ground," he said.