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Taree Save Our Stations rally draws concerned crowd

Apr 28, 2016News

I wish that I could be visiting Taree for happier reasons, and to thank the workers for their time and efforts, but the Liberal Government has forced our hand.

Communities across the state, not just Taree, have been shaken by the out-of-the-blue announcement by the Baird Government to close 12 rail stations, and cut staff from another 19.

Murwillumbah, Byron Bay, Lismore, Nambucca Heads, Macksville, Blayney, Wellington, Parkes, Broken Hill, Yass Junction, and Griffith – all stations that will close, all staff to lose their jobs.

This is an absolutely monstrous attack on rail workers and regional communities.

These workers are at the heart of their towns.

They serve a central role not just at the stations themselves, but also give tourism advice, and support and assist all passengers using the XPT and Xplorer services.

The government is blaming a need to modernise as the reason behind the cuts, but all they will do is give workers around the state an uncertain future.

It’s already hard to find work in regional areas; it will only be made worse when the government strips these jobs.

Ripping fulltime jobs out of rural and regional communities and replacing them with fewer part-time positions will have flow on effects throughout the whole community.

Moving staff from an eight hour job, down to just three hours part-time will create a new working poor who won’t be able to afford to only have one job and will be forced to try and get other work, or just go without.

While we are still waiting for a final word from the government about just what will happen at Taree Station, we know that there will be cuts to staff grades, and cuts to customer service.

The Customer Service Manager who currently serves the station, selling tickets, making bookings, and helping with baggage will be replaced with an Area Customer Service Manager.

This one position will oversee Taree, Wingham, Gloucester, Wauchope and Kendall.

They will not perform any customer service duties, and will be just there to manage the remaining staff.

Currently, Taree Railway Station is staffed from 7.30am to 2am. This means that staff are there to assist passengers with the morning train heading north, and the night train running south.

But, the Baird Government’s cuts will mean that neither train will get real assistance from staff.

Under the changes, staff at Taree will not be rostered to work until 9.30am Monday to Friday, but the train arrives at 9.50am.

The lone worker at the station will not have sufficient time to get the station ready for the train arrival, then do the bookings, ticketing and luggage.

There is a reason that the station is staffed for long hours, and why there needs to be more than just one worker, but the state government just doesn’t get that.

Despite the union writing to the Nationals MPs some months ago asking them to protect locals jobs and services, we haven’t heard anything back.

They have gone quiet and let this government completely forget about country areas. Now is the time for them to stand up for their constituents.

The Nationals are nowhere to be seen to stand up for these jobs.

Stephen Bromhead is letting his Liberal Party bosses tell him that they are ripping away jobs and services from his electorate.

Shame on him.

When the government says they are going to ‘unattend’ stations, it just means that those stations will be closed.

The government is hiding behind buzzwords to try and cover up what this staff review process is really about – job cuts.

There won’t be staff to help with luggage, there won’t be staff to sell tickets or give advice, and there will be no staff to provide assistance if you need it.

Not only will staff face an uncertain future, so will the stations.

Some of these stations have been operating for more than 100 years.

They have been the focal point of the community, and have seen sad departures, and long-awaited arrivals for over a century.

They have seen the move from horse and cart, and steam, to cars and electric.

Generations of locals and visitors alike have travelled along these lines and walked through these stations, but the Baird Government’s decision will mean that the upkeep and affection that has been held for these stations will be lost.

Some of these staff have worked on the railways for decades and provide an important service for locals and visitors to our regions.

The union has visited each of the 30 stations that are facing cuts and will continue speaking with the workers about what this will mean for them and their families.

We need to stand with the workers, and stand with local communities around the state.

Go out and tell your friends.

Go write a letter to Stephen Bromhead and tell him to stand up for his constituents, and Premier Baird.

The Nationals and this Government are taking advantage of the fact that these are safe seats and they think they can get away with stripping jobs and opportunities away from our regions.

We need to give them the backlash that they have never had before.

We need to show them that these areas will not be used as some experiment for cutting staff and leaving stations crumbling and deserted.

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