Unions suggest job cuts, tariffs, buying Australian to save BlueScope steelworks

A mass meeting of BlueScope staff took place yesterday morning, with the AWU agreeing to cut costs at the Port Kembla steelworks, but wanting to see that pain was “distributed fairly”.

The Australian Financial Review reports that around 600 met yesterday at Fairy Meadow’s Fraternity Club at 7 am.

The union agreed to make reasonable concessions and begin mediation "with the aim of identifying productivity improvements and cost savings initiatives", acknowledging that jobs would be lost.

Branch secretary of the AWU, Wayne Philips, told The AFR, "These savings are not all going to come from the shop floor."

"We [workers] are going to take it. So are they [management]."

As part of a bid to save $200 million a year, a starting point for cost cuts is shedding 500 jobs at the Port Kembla blast furnace, which is competing with a glut of internationally traded steel. Unions maintain that steel is being dumped in Australia and the treasurer should act on this.

‘‘The Treasurer of Australia has the executive power to impose emergency safeguard tariffs to protect the steel industry,’’ Arthur Rorris said of the South Coast Labor Council told The Illawarra Mercury.

‘‘These are temporary in nature, designed for crises such as this where you have evidence of illegal dumping, in this case illegal dumping of steel.”

The industry minister’s office said that traiffs would not be a viable measure.

Earlier this week independent senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan announced they would be drafting legislation aimed at mandating Australian made goods, including steel, in government procurement unless there were a good reason not to.

A “buy our steel” community rally will be held on September 12.