Haulage company, Qube Logistics is offloading eight jobs in Goulburn, blaming a downturn in the NSW grain harvest.
The company advised all of its 29 Goulburn-based drivers late last week that it would have to cut eight positions due to the slowdown in business. They have been given until tomorrow to decide whether they wish to take a voluntary redundancy.
The company’s corporate affairs director, Paul White said Qube’s grain trains hauled from within the regional catchment had dropped from 412 last quarter to 235 this quarter.
“Due to the collapse in last year’s grain harvest, regional train services have dropped by approximately 40 per cent compared to the previous year,” a company spokesman said.
“Also, the lower quality of the harvest has meant most of the grain is not suitable for export but is going into domestic feedlot use.”
Qube carries export quality grain and general freight through the region to Port Botany.
The spokesman said the decline meant that train crews had been overstaffed at several NSW locations for some months.
“We have conducted a full review of the business and have been working to avoid redundancies for as long as possible,” he said.
“Unfortunately we can’t put this off any longer...Our local management have consulted with the RTBU and they understand the need for this action.
“Obviously, this has been a difficult decision but like any company Qube must respond to changed market conditions. We will do everything commercially possible to avoid forced redundancies but will have to go down that path if we don’t have enough suitable applicants for voluntary redundancy.”
Mr White said the company had tried and failed to secure further haulage contracts over the past few months. However The Post is aware that in late 2016 Qube wound back its commitment to haul treated timber from the Goulburn Rail Hub, operated by Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia, to Sydney and Port Kembla for export.
Another company, Crawford Freight Lines, has taken over the work and engaged Sydney Rail Services to deliver on the contract.
But Mr White blamed scheduling issues for loss of the timber agreement, issued by International Primary Products (Aust and NZ).
“It was related to service requirements. The scheduling of the trains didn’t match interaction with the ships,” he said.
The rail hub was approved in December, 2015 to shift 135,000 tonnes of timber annually, sourced from the region and fumigated onsite with methyl bromide.
Mr White did not return further requests for comment on this contract and other questions related to the redundancies.
But he said the Harefield train from the Riverina to Sydney, carrying paper from the Visy mill at Tumut, was also no longer running through Goulburn. Instead, it was going to Melbourne, driven by different crews.
He conceded it took time to train loco drivers and could not say what the company would do if the harvest picked up. The company has ruled out accommodating Goulburn employees elsewhere in the business.
Qube is also calling for 11 voluntary redundancies at its Sydney depot and one from Newcastle.
Employees will be advised whether their expressions of interest for VRs have been accepted by Friday, when they will become effective.
Secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW, Bob Hayden said it was “devastating” when jobs were cut from regional areas like Goulburn, where the impact was widely felt.
“The RTBU is doing everything we can to support the local Qube members and is already speaking with other operators in the area to try and find any worker who needs one, a new job,” he said in a statement.
“At this stage, the company has confirmed it is seeking voluntary redundancies, but if there are not enough volunteers, it will likely move to forced redundancies, which is always a bitter blow to the workforce.
“Some things are out of everyone’s control, including the wheat harvest, but that doesn’t make it any easier on the workers and their families.
“It’s terrible to see hard-working, dedicated workers being forced out of the company. The union will continue to do everything we can to ensure those workers are supported.”