Angry KiwiRail workers wait for news on job loss

By Kiri Gillespie

A total of 158 jobs will be shed from KiwiRail but the number of positions lost locally remains unknown for now.

Forty two jobs will be lost from KiwiRail's northern region, which incorporates the Bay of Plenty. Another 18 will be lost from the Track Machine Team and Railweld sector, spread throughout the country.

KiwiRail will not release the number of jobs lost locally until later this week.

National president for the Rail and Maritime Transport Union Aubrey Wilkinson said there was a lot of anger and frustration among members who believed their work would be contracted out.

Mr Wilkinson said the network in the "golden triangle" of Tauranga, Auckland, Kawerau and Hamilton was in dire need of repair and maintenance.

Kiwirail cutting jobs when the network was in such poor condition was what angered members most, he said.

"It's not like there's no work to be done but when you cut staff, you can't really put two and two together."

KiwiRail spokesman Nick Gowland said staff would be told of local job losses before anyone else.

He added that concerns future work would be subbed out to contractors were unfounded.

"Obviously there are bits and pieces of work going on where we do use contractors but there's no intention of just reducing our head count and replace our staff with contractors," he said.

"There's still a lot of work that's going to be done. That will be [done by] our staff."

In a statement released yesterday, KiwiRail infrastructure and engineering general manager Rick van Barneveld said the restructure was part of a programme to rebalance priorities in response to continuing economic uncertainty.

"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."

Mr Barneveld said KiwiRail intended to spend $750 million on the network over the next three years.

NZ First transport spokesman and Tauranga MP Brendan Horan said the cuts were "absolute madness".

"It's the taxpayer that really suffers because we go from having 158 tax paid workers to a third going into contract work, a third going to Australia and a third going on to welfare," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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