There are suggestions KiwiRail plans to shed a further 100 jobs next year, on top of up to 220 it is looking to axe by October.
The state-owned enterprise yesterday confirmed it was looking at job cuts after NZ First released a consultation document sent to staff outlining plans to save $14 million a year in wages.
Between 170 and 220 jobs will be lost from its infrastructure and engineering business which employs about 1000 of KiwiRail's 4100 staff. The business has reassessed its operations and budget, and aims to save $200m over the next three years.
NZ First transport spokesman Brendan Horan said a "very reliable source" expected a further 100 jobs would go by the end of 2013.
The jobs to go by October were important maintenance staff, he said.
"These are people that do the tamping of the rail and the ballast machines. These are critical jobs that are going."
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union said it was in talks with KiwiRail management.
General secretary Wayne Butson said workers were overwhelmingly against KiwiRail's proposals.
Major investment and more work needed to be done to restore New Zealand's track and infrastructure to its pre-early 1990s privatisation standard, he said.
"Now is not the time to be shedding staff while this work takes place."
The job losses could see a flood of skilled rail workers to Australia where rejuvenation of rail transport was a priority, he said.
Workers were putting forward other options for cost cutting and the union hoped any redundancies were voluntary and didn't put the future of the KiwiRail workforce at risk, Mr Butson said.
Earlier this year KiwiRail announced it was selling its Hillside railway engineering workshop in Dunedin, where 130 people are employed.
Last month KiwiRail announced it would restructure and shift its land holdings to a new entity, with a write-down of about $6.7 billion.
NZ First and Labour have expressed concern the changes are part of a Government plan to prepare KiwiRail for sale.
Labour's state-owned enterprises spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, said KiwiRail was a difficult infrastructure asset. However, the organisation was "essential to our economy both in terms of competition with road transport for cargo but also accessing products and services for many of our regions".
KiwiRail is holding further staff meetings in Marlborough, Otago and Southland ending this week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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