Copper manufacturer MM Kembla has announced 70 employees will be made redundant as it scales back operations and closes the wire and rod division of its business.
Chief executive officer Colin Wetherstone said the company was no longer able to compete against foreign manufacturers due to the removal of tariffs on all imports of copper and rod from ASEAN countries.
‘‘The decision we have advised our employees and customers of... has been a particularly difficult one to make,’’ he said.
MM Kembla has operated in the Illawarra for close to a century.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Industrial Officer Brad Hattenfels said workers were ‘‘shocked’’ when they were told of the decision on Thursday.
‘‘It was only a number of years ago it was that part of the business that was going well for the company,’’ he said.
Mr Hattenfels said there would now be regular meetings with the company, and workers would be seeking financial assistance from the government.
MM Kembla’s tube and fittings business will continue, however redundancies will be offered to all staff at the business.
Mr Weatherstone said the removal of tariffs had allowed some foreign producers to ‘‘aggressively target’’ their markets.
‘‘Growth in finished cable imports has increased significantly, energy costs have more than doubled over the past five years and are forecast to increase again next year,’’ he said.
‘‘We are saddened by these events and we will continue to consult with our employees and their representatives over the next few months.
‘‘An Employee Assistance Program is available for employees in need of counselling.”
Full production at the wire and rod division is expected to cease at the end of the first financial quarter in 2014.