Hunter jobs go as Pacific National cuts 121 freight rail positions

THE Hunter Region is wearing the brunt of big job cuts announced by freight rail company Pacific National.

Pacific National confirmed the redundancies, but declined to comment on the numbers, which the Rail, Tram and Bus Union says total 121. The job cuts come just days after the Newcastle Herald reported the loss of another five jobs at Pacific National’s Greta depot, with the company not disputing speculation that at least 50 coal train drivers’ jobs were on the line. 

Union organiser Steve Wright said 32 drivers’ positions were going from Port Waratah, with eight from Greta, 12 from Gunnedah, nine from Narrabri and 23 from Port Kembla. The company was also moving all of its “live run” planning and rostering positions to North Sydney, costing another 24 jobs at Port Waratah, nine at Greta and five in the Illawarra.

Mr Wright said the percentage of jobs lost varied from depot to depot but the 32 Newcastle jobs were more than 10 per cent of driver numbers, and other depot cuts were much higher proportionally.

He said Pacific National was trying to “casualise the industry by stealth”.

“At the same time that they are presenting redundancies to their permanent workforce they are advertising for casual drivers with employment agencies,” Mr Wright said.

He said the relevant enterprise agreement stressed “a majority of permanent workers, but even that allows them to move to 49 per cent casual, which is what they seem to be wanting to do”.

Letters sent to Port Waratah drivers said the job cuts were needed because existing rostering practices could not cope with the “variability and upredictability” of demand. Pacific National had “made a definite decision to reduce our full-time (equivalent positions) ... and to increase our use of flexible labour (labour hire and direct casuals) to meet above-average demand for labour”. New rosters would “increase the number of available working days per cycle” for drivers.

Responding to the Herald, Pacific National agreed it was “seeking more flexibility” in its workforce but said “to suggest a majority or near majority of casual employees grossly overstates the level of flexibility we are seeking”.

The company said consultation was starting and “where new roles cannot be found for impacted employees within the business we will need to ask for redundancies”.