Unions worried outsourcing of QR work will lead to job cuts

PLANS to outsource chunks of Queensland Rail have unions fearing more than 880 workers in Queensland's regional areas will lose their jobs.

The vast majority - estimated to be up to 75% - of those 880 are maintenance workers, although there are also station staff and caterers in the mix.

These numbers do not include workers in Gympie, Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast which are considered part of the south-east network.

Major centres for QR's workers are in Cairns and Bundaberg, the sites of its two major regional depots.

The government-owned rail company maintains 6000km of rail outside south-east Queensland, although the former QR National - now Aurizon - shoulders maintenance for rail that primarily services industry.

The government estimates it costs $2000 to subsidise each passenger who travels on its most rural lines, either from Townsville to Mt Isa or between Brisbane and Charleville.

If the state outsourced these lines, it would aim to have private operators contractually bound to continue delivering the routes.

But unions worry jobs and safety standards will disappear.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union believes recommendations made by the Commission of Audit in its findings this week means no job within QR should be considered safe.

State secretary Owen Doogan said the combination of two suggestions - to put regional passenger services to competitive tender and outsource maintenance - meant there was be almost nothing left of the QR people know today.

"There is nobody within QR that has been excluded from the potential of being privatised," Mr Doogan said.

"This is the privatisation line that not even Anna Bligh was prepared to trade in."

He said the focus on safety that was a top priority for the government workers could slip under a private firm.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said if programs could be done cheaper and more efficiently by groups outside government, it needed to be considered.

"The union movement has no monopoly on doing things the right way," he said on Tuesday.

"We've said if we can deliver the services at the same or better quality, at a better price through the non-government sector, then we should be doing that."

Although the state has accepted the commission's recommendations, decisions on how it will act on them are yet to be made.

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