Caterpillar asked to explain 280 jobs cut at Burnie

The Tasmanian opposition has said Caterpillar owed the
state’s north-west an explanation as to why it would axe 280 jobs at Burnie.

The Mercury reports that Caterpillar Underground Mining’s
Australian operation was lucrative, making an $18.9 million profit in 2013 from
revenues of $299 million.

“Caterpillar gave a commitment to continue
manufacturing in Burnie and it needs to explain what has changed when the
operation remains so profitable,” said opposition leader Bryan Green.

“Caterpillar are actually making money, they’re
making a profit as a result of their manufacturing here so we should be
tackling Caterpillar to allow Australians to understand why these jobs are
leaving out shores and what do we have to do to retain them.”

The site will retain around 120 jobs, it has been
reported, in R&D, design and logistics. It was announced on Friday that manufacturing will be shifted to Rayong, Thailand.

The AMWU’s John Short said workers had “bent over
backwards” and given a lot of ground on labour costs.

“They’ve reduced the
labour costs from something like over $120 per hour down to, I think it’s below
$80 an hour now,” he told the ABC.

“They’ve made massive
efforts, been on a four-day week at one stage, to secure their jobs and this is
the thanks they get.”

The Tasmanian government
has announced a taskforce, chaired by primary industries minister Jeremy
Rockliff, to assist retrenched workers. The last of the jobs will be cut in early 2016.

“It does give us some
time to think through this in a very measured way, look at all the data
available to us on the opportunities, and come up with a very strong
forward-thinking plan,” Rockliff said.