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Less than half of the 450 train workers Keolis Downer hopes to employ from the public sector have expressed an interest in working for the company, the rail union says.
It comes as Keolis Downer – the company taking over Adelaide’s rail network from the end of January – extended its deadline to receive expressions of interest from current train personnel.
The original cut-off date was last Friday but the company is now accepting EoIs until November 27.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union SA/NT secretary Darren Phillips said the union understood “less than half” of the personnel sought by Keolis Downer had lodged an EoI.
“Frankly, it’s not surprising that workers are reluctant to transfer from their public sector jobs to a private employer during the middle of a recession” he said.
“We’ve always said that privatisation of essential services is never a good idea, but in the middle of a pandemic it makes no sense at all.”
Mr Phillips said border restrictions had made it difficult for Keolis Downer to meet directly with workers and SA’s six-day COVID-19 lockdown “will make it even more complicated”.
“The transition process has turned into a shambles, and the State Government needs to put the privatisation process on ice until after the next state election.”
A Keolis Downer spokesman confirmed the EoI period had been extended to November 27 and while he would not provide the number of EoIs received, he said the union’s figures were incorrect.
“The extension occurred in consultation with Department for Infrastructure and Transport employees who were considering external industrial relations matters, including the outcome of enterprise bargaining negotiations for a new Rail Operations Enterprise Agreement,” he said.
“Keolis Downer is confident of recruiting staff, both internally and externally, to ensure a smooth transition on 31 January 2021.”
The spokesman said while the six-day shutdown “presented some challenges” Keolis Downer representatives were continuing to liaise with employees about expressing an interest in joining its team.
Letters of offer will be made in the coming weeks and recipients will have 10 days to respond.
A State Government spokeswoman said the outsourcing of Adelaide’s rail services was going ahead.
“The State Government is pleased with the way the process is going,” she said.
Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said the privatisation of the train system was “turning into high farce”.
About 574 employees currently deliver train services in Adelaide, according to a report tabled in State Parliament this month.
Those who do not obtain a position with Keolis Downer can enter the State Government’s Redeployment, Retraining and Redundancy Program, which aims to find people alternative work within the public sector or help them gain a voluntary separation package.
The government announced in September that it was privatising the operation of the train network and Keolis Downer would take over on January 31.
This article first appeared on www.adelaidenow.com.au
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