Industry calls for continued manufacturing during COVID-19

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) and Ai Group have united to call for continued domestic manufacturing to support households, business, community organisations and health providers.

In a joint statement, Ai Group CEO Innes Willox and AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said it was “crucial” that businesses, particularly in the food processing, packaging, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and health industries, kept their operations running.

Willox and Walton believed unemployment in the manufacturing sector should be a key consideration for limiting any economic activity.

Both leaders said business closures would be “costly and hazardous”.

“Many manufacturing businesses cannot be turned off and on with the flick of a switch,” the statement said.

“These extra costs and risks need to be weighed in any assessment of a shut down. If they can operate safely, they should remain open.”

Both organisations welcomed extended social distancing measures and believed large parts of the economy could run without infringing the rules.

“Businesses in metal production and fabrication, glass making, cement production, paper production, and building products manufacturing – along with many other areas of manufacturing – can operate safely within social distancing guidelines,” the statement said.

Retaining employment, limiting business closures and containing the spread of coronavirus were cited as key priorities, according to the statement.

“History suggests unemployment rises much faster than it falls,” the statement said.

“The costs of unemployment – both human and economic – last for many years beyond the passing of the economic downturn. Many people, particularly those who are older and less skilled, will never be re-employed.”

More than 920,000 people are directly employed in Australia’s manufacturing sector.