KiwiRail Job Cuts Cause Unnecessary Risk
The 220 jobs that are being cut from KiwRail's engineering department are not insignificant. These are the guys that repair, maintain and upgrade the track and oversee general rail infrastructure. Our rail systems were hugely run down during the years of privatisation and have still not returned to the standard they were before. The main goal of this exercise is to save $14 million without losing "essential skills and competencies".
It all sounds a little like the cuts to our biosecurity staff where we were assured that we would not lose essential frontline staff and yet information gained through the OIA revealed otherwise. Twenty five frontline staff had been cut and two x-ray machines were taken out of service. An independent report identified shortcomings in our biosecurity that led to the entry of a devastating kiwifruit vine disease that will cost around $400 million in lost revenue.
If our track maintenance is compromised because of these cuts the potential for a major accident or failure increases. The Government appears to rely on the short memories or the general apathy of the public when it continues to cut frontline staff from our government departments and SOEs. While there may be savings of a few million in wages and salaries, and the government's books may look good, the costs down the line may be considerable. I'm sure our KiwiFruit industry, the Pike River families and those living in leaky homes would say that the risks involved in such indiscriminate cuts aren't worth it.