The Guardian 2 March, 2005
For Sale — privatisation
of Goulburn Railway Workshop
Evidence of a secret plan to sell the Goulburn Railway workshop, in southern NSW, has been unearthed by a rail worker. The secret was uncovered when a manager at the workshop let the cat out of the bag to an Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) member, according to the union's State Secretary, Paul Bastian.
The decision to sell Goulburn comes as the state government finalises plans to privatise maintenance across the rail network. Mr Bastian said privatisation and contracting out had been behind many of the problems besieging the NSW rail network in recent months.
He said public safety could not be guaranteed when everything from brakes and other components, right up to entire rail cars are imported from overseas.
"When you're hurtling down the tracks on a crowded peak hour train, it's not much comfort to know that you're riding on the cheapest possible tender price."
"This plan will also cost jobs — particularly in regional NSW. We already have a major skills crisis. We can't start to compete on exports if we've exported all ours skills!"
Mr Bastian said that the problems in rail were compounded by the state government's lack of action to keep ship building contracts in NSW.
The AMWU and Australian Workers' Union have both accused the Carr government of "welshing" on long-standing rail infrastructure assurances.
The state's Rail Infrastructure Corporation (RIC) is considering two private expressions of interest, one from a US consortium, to buy the 30-year-old Goulburn Rail workshop.
Meanwhile, state politicians are tight-lipped about plans to knock-off the design, construction and maintenance of 500 electrical passenger carriages, under the guise of Public Private Partnership (PPP).
Only 20 percent of the $1.8 billion contract has been earmarked for NSW with the rest open to international tender.
AMWU attempts to get confirmation the work would remain in the state have drawn a blank.
The union estimates 2400 skilled jobs could be lost if the tender goes offshore — 800 existing rail employees, 800 more at private engineering firms in Sydney and the Hunter Valley, and as many again in downstream services.
NSW's local content commitment is being compared unfavourably with the 80 percent demanded by the Federal Government on a multi-billion dollar contract for new naval vessels.
"The significance of these tenders to the future of the rolling stock industry cannot by over estimated", said Paul Bastian. "The loss of more skilled workers has long-term implications, for job security, regional economies and the future of our skills base."
Union organiser Mark Hoban fingered RIC CEO, Bob Pentecost, as the architect of the Goulburn sell-off plan.
"Pentecost has got form but we are onto him", Mr Hoban said. "He was responsible for selling large chunks of Telstra and has brought the same mentality to rail."
There is to be a coordinated campaign to oppose the sell-off of rail infrastructure.