WA mining jobs grow as manufacturing haemorrhages staff

Western Australia’s manufacturing sector is losing nearly 150 jobs per day as workers chase high wages in mining.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that for the first in nearly 100 years, there are more people working in mining than manufacturing in the state, according to The West Australian.

In the three months to August the mining sector increased by 3500 workers compared to the previous quarter, employing more than 91 000 people in total.

This was also a massive spike from the days of the global financial crisis where the sector recorded only 40 000 workers.

However, the manufacturing industry recorded a loss of 13 300 employees across the same period, falling by 20 000 workers since August 2009.

Australia’s consistently strong currency was blamed, as unions and the State Government urged miners to use more local content for their operations.

UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk said the strong dollar was a major factor, but added that with fewer apprentices in trades across the industry, a labour shortage was inevitable.

She went on to say that the Government needed to work harder to ensure local companies were more involved in mining projects

The Federal Government recently installed former Queensland premier Peter Beattie as the first ‘Resources Sector Supplier’ envoy, to encourage Australian mining companies to buy local, and is part of a wider Buy Australia program.

However Rio Tinto head of iron ore Australia, Sam Walsh, said that mining has been supporting local manufacturing.

“There’s a bit of myth that mining companies are not supporting Australian manufacturing. Well that’s not true.

“If you look at our expansion projects [in the Pilbara], we’re running with 75 per cent local content.

"If you look at our ongoing operations we’re running with 86% local content,” he said.

While the mining sector has rapidly expanded in the state, it is not Western Australia’s largest employer.

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