Queensland’s premier has conceded job losses are a danger with asset sales as a privatised freight rail firm flags retrenching up to 480 workers.
Aurizon has announced the downsizing of heavy maintenance operations in South Townsville and Redbank – four years after the former Bligh government sold it off as QR National.
The first job cuts are expected to hit in June, with further reductions occurring until 2017.
Premier Campbell Newman concedes job losses are a peril of privatisation, as his government seeks public feedback on asset sales ahead of next year’s election.
“People know that these things happen in privatisation,” he told reporters.
“It’s very much part of the debate.”
Sacked Aurizon workers would be “prime candidates” to work on new projects such as Indian mining giant Adani’s recently approved $16.5 billion mine and rail project in the Galilee Basin, he added.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said she was very angry.
“If I could tell you exactly how I feel and what I’d like to do to people, I don’t think you’d be able to publish it,” she told AAP.
Her Ipswich counterpart Paul Pisasale said some Redbank workers could find jobs at Queensland Rail’s Wulkuraka maintenance depot, but the region southwest of Brisbane was again playing “job roulette”.
“You know, you lose one, you gain one, you lose one, you gain one,” he said.
Shadow treasurer Curtis Pitt said Labor was no longer keen on asset sales despite what Anna Bligh did as premier.
“We have listened to Queenslanders,” he said.
“The LNP must do the same or, at their own peril, they will feel the wrath of Queenslanders who want public assets to remain in public hands.”
Aurizon, which employs 450 staff at Redbank and 115 at Townsville, said it would refrain from forced redundancies and give retrenched workers the chance to apply for other jobs in the company.
“All apprentices, trainees and graduates employed at affected locations will have training periods honoured,” it said.
The cuts are part of the company’s efforts to improve productivity by more than $130 million by the 2015 financial year.