Aurizon wins battle with Unions over agreements for its Queensland operations

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"QRN - Laying new tracks central Qld" Image credit: Aurizon website

Australia’s largest rail freight operator Aurizon has welcomed the decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) which overrides union opposition and greenlights the termination of enterprise agreements containing “inefficient” and unproductive work practices.

"QRN - Laying new tracks central Qld" Image credit: Aurizon website
“QRN – Laying new tracks central Qld”
Image credit: Aurizon website

The company has announced that the FWC’s ruling is a landmark decision for industrial relations.

“This is a landmark decision, not only for Aurizon but in the broader context for Australian industrial relations. Our aim always has been to negotiate in good faith workplace agreements that are contemporary and forward-looking, and match those already agreed by unions with our direct competitors. We anticipate today’s decision will assist us in moving towards that outcome,” Aurizon Managing Director & CEO Lance Hockridge said.

Many provisions restricted Aurizon from making changes to its business in response to a competitive market. Now, the company will be able to finalise new enterprise agreements and terminate 12 expired enterprise agreements covering 6,000 Aurizon workers in Queensland.

“Many of the provisions sought to be removed or varied are not common in most enterprise agreements. They restrict Aurizon in making business changes that it wishes to make in response to a competitive market situation. The restrictive provisions restrain Aurizon’s capacity to effectively manage its labour resource needs. Aurizon has endeavoured to negotiate changes to those provisions but the lengthy and comprehensive negotiations have not led to an agreement,” commented the FWC.

“We readily understand its desire that it’s now private sector business no longer be restrained by provisions that were effectively imposed through the privatisation process. We do not think the changes proposed, objectively viewed, involve exploitation or unfairness in the terms and conditions of employment of Aurizon employees.”

Aurizon applied to terminate existing workplace agreements in May last year. The company said two recently negotiated agreements covered 1,400 employees.

The decision, which will apply from May 2015, was reportedly slammed by a key union which warned industrial action would break out across the country.