Axed timber cutters fighting back

MORE than 30 sleeper cutters from around the region gathered in Rosedale yesterday to fight back against Queensland Rail’s tender process changes.

The meeting resulted in the formation of a small delegation that plans to meet senior politicians and administrators.

Many timber cutters in the region were taken by surprise when a tender notice appeared in the NewsMail recently calling for the supply of railway sleepers and other timber products.

Member for Burnett Rob Messenger, who hosted the meeting, said the 32 sleeper cutters who attended would lose their jobs if QR continued down this path.

“We can save sleeper cutters jobs,” he said.

“This government must commit to scrapping the new tendering system and restoring the contract and quota system, which has worked and served the environment and people of Queensland for more than 40 years.”

Mr Messenger said he believed there were about 56 official sleeper cutters in Queensland and 32 of those showed up to the meeting.

“We have decided a delegation of three will meet with the transport minister, QR and Campbell Newman to discuss this,” he said.

Owen Williamson is a third-generation timber cutter who has been doing the same job for 34 years and said that, without the QR tenders, his business would not survive.

“I got my first (QR) order about 28 years ago and before that I was working for my father, who had orders,” he said.

“We really just want our orders reinstated.

“I believe they could have sorted this out a hell of a lot easier.”

Mr Williamson, of Yandaran, said he and the other sleeper cutters had been “left in the lurch”.

“None of us could have put in a tender,” he said.

“They told us to put in a non-compliant tender but what’s the point?

“They told us to do that a week after the tender process closed.”

Mr Williamson said he was just one of many sleeper cutters who had come from a long line of cutters.

“A lot of these guys have been doing this all their lives,” he said.

“They’ve got a long history as sleeper cutters.

“Instead they’ve gone for the big players.”

Mr Williamson said he expected the delegation to travel to Brisbane next week to meet with anyone who could make a difference to their fate.

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