Union urges governments to save local manufacturing jobs

High Aussie dollar, rising overseas competition and global economic crisis are held responsible for 125,000 local manufacturers losing their jobs over the past four years.

According to the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) with the overseas workers and products being in demand for resources projects, another 85,000 jobs by 2017 will be at stake if the government failed to provide support to local workers, the ABC news reports.

Recently, under the Gillard government’s biggest foreign labour deal, as many as 2062 guest workers will be imported for work on sheet metal, painters and scaffolders, all roles that could be undertaken by Australian Workers.

The Immigration Department openly admitted that the demand for overseas workers is much higher for any previous labour agreement submission than it has ever previously received.

PM Gillard has stated that “we will keep working in enterprise migration agreements to make sure that Australians are always at the front of the queue, that they are always the ones to get the opportunities growing from these resource projects.”

She went on to say “that's why we will create a jobs board, make use of it conditional for future agreements, and we will be strengthening oversight, because we will always put Australian jobs first”.

AMWU's national secretary Paul Bastian has highlighted that “a recent report on manufacturing by a government taskforce recommends increasing the level of Australian-made content on major resources and defence projects.”

Bastian pointed out that “currently less than ten per cent of steel for the resources sector is Australian-made, while steel fabrication factories in Kwinana sit idle and youth unemployment is 26.4 per cent.”

"What we want to do right now is stem the losses of jobs," Bastian said.

He went on to say that "to lose another 10 per cent of our manufacturing capacity is something that we should not allow to occur and we should do everything we can as a country to ensure that we have a strong manufacturing base."

Bastian stated that the high cost of doing business was adding pressure to the sector, the Herald Sun reports.

According to Bastian having a manufacturing base was essential for any strong and diverse economy, and that Australia could no longer just rely on the mining boom.

"We can't compete with countries on low wages, we've got to play to our strengths – our education, our skills base, and the quality of the products we make,” Bastian explained

He said “we require the government to support a national manufacturing strategy, and plan to help Australia move to a competitive high-cost environment through smarter workplaces.”