Unions support jobs forum in lieu of full-blown manufacturing enquiry

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s offer of a one-day jobs forum in Canberra, designed to calm the nerves of Australia’s worried manufacturing workers over the future of the industry, has been labelled a ‘cop-out’ by the federal opposition. 

The forum, which will take place on 6 October at Parliament House, will be attended by unions, academics, businesses and government bodies.

"This tokenistic effort over one day . . . it’s the policymaking equivalent of theatre sports," said opposition industry shadow minister, Sophie Mirabella – quoted in The Australian today.

Mirabella, who hosted a one-day manufacturing forum of her own in Wangaratta back in May, claims Gillard’s 6 October forum is a way to still manufacturing cries for help, but avoid really looking into the issue, as a formal enquiry would have done. 

The unions have a different take on the news though, with Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) national secretary Dale Oliver saying he welcomes the one-day forum, which will be called ‘Tomorrow’s Jobs – Staying Ahead of the Game.’

“Our unions are glad to see the government taking active steps to find a solution to the crisis facing jobs in manufacturing and other sectors. A forum will allow unions, government and business and leading industry experts to discuss the best policy solutions to the two-speed economy,” he said.

“We look forward to the opportunity to put forward submissions about how the benefits of the mining boom can be spread more evenly among the industries which employ the 98% of Australians who do not work in the mining sector.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Ged Kearney also supports the forum, saying it will be a valuable opportunity to bring together representatives of workers, employers and government to map out constructive solutions to the challenges faced by the Australian economy.

“Australia’s labour market is the envy of the developed world,” Kearney said. 

“Credit for this must lie with the Labor Government, which protected jobs in Australia through its strong actions to stimulate the economy during the Global Financial Crisis.

“But last month’s small rise in the jobless rate shows we cannot afford to be complacent.

“We cannot accept these job losses as the norm, and there is a need for industry planning to consider issues confronting the manufacturing sector in particular, which is under extraordinary pressure from the booming dollar and unfair competition from illegal foreign dumping.”

Image: SMH.com.au