QR National workers are nervous about their futures.
QR National workers are nervous about their futures.

QR National in court over lay-offs

UNIONS fought QR National in the Federal Court and in front of Fair Work Australia yesterday over plans to cut more than 900 workers.

The Electrical Trades Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union took QR National to court after accusing the company of ignoring issues raised by the unions over voluntary redundancies.

The Federal Court sent both sides back to Fair Work Australia yesterday afternoon, to be resumed if an agreement cannot be made.

QR National, which employs 700 people at its Redbank workshops, is not able to compel workers to accept redundancies, a safeguard set out in the current enterprise bargaining agreement.

Because of these restrictions, QR National is able to declare workers "surplus" if their jobs disappear, shifting them from a workshop and into a "transition centre".

In this office, workers are paid a base salary to update their resumes and work with recruitment staff to find them new roles within or beyond the company.

Both unions know it cannot stop QR National from cutting staff, but want the rail powerhouse to have a truly voluntary redundancy program.

ETU organiser Jason Young said 6500 of QR National's 9000-strong workforce were "in scope" to be offered between 900 and 1500 redundancies.

He said both unions went to Fair Work Australia, which suggested they take the issue to the Federal Court.

"We considered that and the gravity of the situation facing members and brought on an action to the Federal Court for an injunction to stop them implementing their redundancy program," Mr Young said.

With the EBA off the table until the end of next year, industrial action is not an option.

In 2011, more than 900 workers were given voluntary redundancies.

AMWU state organiser Steve Franklin said many might take the redundancies to avoid having to go through this process each year.

"I think there is certainly nervousness out there.

"These guys don't know what's going to happen in the future."

QR National declined to comment further.