KiwiRail in court over union complaint

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New Zealand’s largest rail operator has found itself before the Employment Relations Authority after a union complained the company unfairly outsourced work to a Chinese firm instead of turning to its own employees.

"We're concerned that the decision to bypass KiwiRail workers in favour of CNR workers from China is a breach of our collective agreement," said Todd Valster, a spokesperson for the Rail and Maritime Transport Union.

Twenty-seven workers were brought to New Zealand from China to fix asbestos found in 40 locomotives built by China’s state-owned CNR Dalian Locomotive.

“Where workers from China are used, KiwiRail must ensure in its contract with CNR that workers' pay and conditions meet New Zealand standards,” he added.

Valster said the union had made multiple attempts to get the locomotive company to disclose how much the overseas workers were being paid but to no avail.

A KiwiRail spokesperson rejected the union's characterisation of the events and told HRM that it had not breached any of its responsibilities as a state owned employer.

“Given the matter is currently before the Employment Relations Authority, it would not be appropriate for KiwiRail to comment further.”

The hearing begins in Wellington today and is scheduled to run until Thursday.

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