QUEENSLAND Rail will finally be able to employ drivers from the general public after the powerful rail union's bid to block the move was thrown out by the Fair Work Commission.

The decision has finally cleared the path for QR to hire desperately needed train drivers some nine months after it first placed job advertisements seeking external applicants and more than 18 months after the "Rail Fail" crisis.

QR embarked on external recruitment only after weathering criticisms in the 2017 independent Strachan Inquiry about management failings that led to a serious shortage of train drivers, causing the timetable to collapse.

A Fair Work Commission ruling means QR can hire drivers externally.
A Fair Work Commission ruling means QR can hire drivers externally.

Closed-shop hiring rules at QR were blamed in the inquiry for adding to the driver shortages that surfaced when hundreds of train services were suddenly cancelled in October 2016.

The inquiry recommended open recruitment. But the Rail Tram and Bus Union has been fighting to block QR from hiring outsiders ever since it launched a job hunt to fill the $95,000-a-year positions last August.

It argued QR had bypassed internal-first hiring steps in drivers' 2017 enterprise agreement, which guarantee existing staffers first dibs on the jobs, by jumping straight to external recruitment.

But the Fair Work Commission on May 22 refused the appeal, finding the 2017 recruitment rules did not apply as the campaign for 200 new drivers was initiated back in 2015 and 2016.

However, the Fair Work decision flagged the potential for further action should the union contend that new recruitment rules were ignored in replacing retiring drivers post-2017.

QR chief executive officer Nick Easy welcomed the ruling. He said it would "ensure the final stages of our external recruitment campaign progress as planned".

"Offers of employment to external drivers are continuing to be finalised and will be issued in due course," he said.

QR has hired 139 of 200 targeted drivers since 2016, but has had an actual net gain of just 36 drivers when including those that have left the job in the same period. That has sparked criticism by frustrated rail commuters.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad on Saturday rejected that union obstruction had caused delays.

However, Fair Work documents show QR initially froze external appointments pending an outcome. QR did not comment when pressed in March if the RTBU action was the reason for the lag in appointing external applicants.

State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington yesterday said the RTBU appeal was responsible for the delays.

The RTBU did not respond to a request for comment and state secretary Owen Doogan could not be reached.

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