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QR railroaded into controversial deal

Former treasurer Curtis Pitt pushed for the controversial train driver pay deal. Picture: Darren England
Former treasurer Curtis Pitt pushed for the controversial train driver pay deal. Picture: Darren England

PALASZCZUK Government ministers pushed Queensland Rail to adopt a controversial union pay deal at the height of the notorious "rail fail" despite QR's board warning that it could worsen the crisis, secret government documents reveal.

Correspondence between QR's board and the Government show the extent to which QR was given little choice but to accept the deal after direct pressure from Cabinet Ministers.

The emails were released under the Right to Information Act after a nine-month battle by The Courier-Mail to overturn a decision by the Government to block their release.

Former transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe and former treasurer Curtis Pitt, pictured, were behind the controversial pay deal. Picture: Darren England
Former transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe and former treasurer Curtis Pitt, pictured, were behind the controversial pay deal. Picture: Darren England

They show QR's board expressed strong concerns about the impact of the union pay deal for train drivers months after an in-principle agreement was struck with the Rail Tram & Bus Union.

The board advice was virtually ignored, with then transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe and former treasurer Curtis Pitt telling QR to approve the agreement, which was signed soon after.

The train driver enterprise agreement was pushed through at a time of a critical driver shortage that led to the rail timetable collapse.

It came amid the looming threat of a union strike.

Board members had earlier raised concerns about a 12 per cent pay rise for train drivers over four years, with no lift in productivity.

They also feared plans to split the meal break for train drivers into two separate breaks - cutting the time drivers spend behind the controls - given the ongoing train driver shortage.

In a letter to Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Pitt in December 2016, board chairwoman Nicole Hollows warned concerns remained about the deal and how it could worsen the strained rail network.

New Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey has stepped in and revealed the previously secret documents. Picture: AAP/Darren England
New Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey has stepped in and revealed the previously secret documents. Picture: AAP/Darren England

"The board's inquiries in relation to the proposed enterprise agreement have indicated that the operational, timetabling and financial impacts of the agreement, including the new split meal arrangements, are not adequately understood and have not been subject to robust assessment and analysis," she wrote.

"Full costings of the proposed agreement have not been provided to the board and no external benchmarking has been undertaken in relation to the proposed arrangements."

This confirms the board was cut out of initial negotiations, with a deal struck between the Government's Cabinet Budget Review Committee and QR management.

Ms Hollows said "since being provided with the in-principle agreement ... the board has focused on identifying whether the proposed enterprise agreement appropriately supports the provision of reliable and sustainable train services for Citytrain customers (noting current service instability)."

The Courier-Mail revealed in November Mr Pitt's office pressured Mr Hinchliffe to give in to RTBU demands.

QR had initially attempted to keep the emails secret, but withdrew its objections to their release after new Transport Minister Mark Bailey stepped-in to end criticisms of a Government "cover-up".

Topics:  pay queensland rail



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