500,000 jobs under threat says Union but we have a plan

THE Australian Workers’ Union warns up to 500,000 Australian jobs could be lost if the ailing steel industry is allowed to collapse.

THE Australian Workers’ Union warns up to 500,000 Australian jobs could be lost if the ailing steel industry is allowed to collapse.

With the global financial crisis triggering a rapid slowdown in forward orders for steel, AMU National Secretary Paul Howes said the continuing global economic crisis is having a ‘tsunami’ effect on steel jobs and called for more collaboration between Government, steel makers and unions to “save steel jobs where possible”.

Howes was in Canberra on Friday to release the AWU’s New Steel Plan — to be circulated to MPs and Senators — which outlines a 10-point strategy to help local industry get through the current economic climate.

“The long-term viability of our steel industry is threatened. Now is the time to guide this industry through the choppy waters caused by the global financial crisis.

“If steel is to be made anywhere in the world, we want that steel be made in Australia.

“This initiative has, at its core, our desire to keep steel jobs wherever possible. We think early discussion with all parties, and a consultative process, can help us through this crisis,” Howes said.

According to Howes, the rapidly dwindling demand for steel, combined with a flood of cheap imports from overseas, will have a huge impact on regional steelworks, including places like Port Kembla, Whyalla, Newcastle and Westernport.

“The implications for our sector are clear. Stay and fight (with the assistance of government policy where possible) or stand aside, and relinquish our position as a significant steel producer and exporter; turning instead to imports to supply the domestic market,” Howes said.

Said to be an updated model of the 1983 Button Steel Plan, drawn up by the late senator John Button designed to boost industry in the 80s, a key part of the AMU’s Steel Plan is for Government to help ensure Australian steel is used for all economic stimulus infrastructure projects.

“Doing nothing risks the collapse of our domestic steel supply. The result will be import dependence for a strategic industry, and the transfer of value added wealth, as well as jobs, to other producer nations.

“This would occur just as local manufacturing jobs require support, not further strain; and when the government is rolling out massive investment packages into green cars, infrastructure and building stimulus packages which will all require steel inputs,” Howes said.