Bulli job cuts as factories keep shrinking

Jobs are being shed across the Illawarra as companies servicing the mining sector move away from building new machinery and focus instead on care and maintenance.

The most recent redundancies have affected workers at industrial gear and gearbox manufacturer David Brown Gear  Industries’ head Australian office, at Bulli.

AMWU Wollongong industrial officer John Stewart said the company had confirmed 11 shop floor staff would be made redundant on December 13, and had left the door open for more redundancies.

He said up to 20 employees could eventually be shown the door, as the company tried to change its business model in line with trends in  the mining sector.

‘‘They’re tied to the mining industry...companies like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are no longer ordering units...industry companies like David Brown Gear are having to change their business models away from new builds to more care and maintenance work,’’ Mr Stewart said.

He said worker morale was at a low point.

‘‘It’s never great in these sort of situations, it’s very difficult to deal with redundancies but to deal with it in the environment we’re in in the Illawarra, it’s very difficult for everyone involved.

‘‘We’re in ongoing discussions with the company.’’

In October 2010, the manufacturer’s Bulli factory was named best host employer at the 2010 NSW Group Training Awards.

Mr Stewart said the company had previously sacked between five and 10 employees as part of a first round of redundancies earlier this year.

Voluntary redundancies have been made available for a limited period to employees.

David Brown Gear  did not respond to the Mercury’s requests for comment.

Last week, it was reported mining services company WesTrac would shed 400 positions at its offices across    Australia, and Mr Stewart said this included ‘‘about 10’’ at the company’s Wollongong factory. 

A spokesman for Seven Group Holdings, which owns WesTrac, said the company had previously announced  a restructuring program to allow WesTrac to meet changing demands of the mining sector.

‘‘We are working in a consultative process with our people across a number of states and the unions involved.’’ 

The spokesman did not comment on whether any jobs were lost at the company’s Wollongong factory, but said ‘‘the information provided...by the AMWU isn’t correct’’.

In June, global mining equipment manufacturing company Joy Mining said it would cease operations at its Unanderra plant, moving  to its Moss Vale factory.

AMWU Southern NSW officer Brad Hattenfels said the union was concerned for the future of employees at large engineering companies in the Illawarra.

‘‘Heavy manufacturing in the Illawarra is really struggling,’’ he said.

‘‘Wollongong is moving away from heavy industrial type manufacturing to technical [manufacturing].’’

Mr Hattenfels said work now needed to be done to convince companies to diversify.

‘‘It’s about trying to work with companies, try to get their mindset around the fact they may have to move into other areas,’’ he said.

‘‘Most companies had relied on the steel industry but that has certainly waned since the closure of [BlueScope’s] blast furnace...’’

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