Bluescope jobs threat for Port Kembla

Bluescope is planning another round of workforce cuts which may result in the loss of more than 80 jobs at Port Kembla, the steelworkers’ union has revealed.

Industrial trouble may be brewing at the steelworks, with the Australian Workers Union describing the cuts as  ‘‘a massive front-on attack on our workers’’ and vowing the workforce would draw ‘‘a line in the sand’’.

Port Kembla branch secretary Wayne Phillips said the company  wanted to contract out more of its core operations, including all the production operations in the raw materials department. This alone could mean 32 jobs lost.

At the plate mill, 29 operator positions could go, and another eight at the hot strip mill. Other areas would also lose workers, Mr Phillips said.

He described the changes as more significant than the major cuts in 2011, which were easier to understand given the steelmaker’s market conditions.

‘‘We are not prepared now just to sit back and take it,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve said enough is enough – it’s line-in-the-sand stuff.’’

Mr Phillips said workers were angry the redundancies were concentrated almost entirely on the blue-collar workforce.

He was particularly worried about the shift to ‘‘tradesman operators’’ – where workers would be expected to operate plant equipment as well as do maintenance.

‘‘That has major major ramifications for every operator’s job on site,’’ he said.

‘‘You can be an expert operator or an expert tradesperson. The two just don’t marry up.

‘‘That’s a massive front-on attack on our workers.’’

With additional investments announced recently, it had appeared BlueScope was recovering from the financial pressures which led it to book a $1billion loss and cut 1000 employees in 2011.

BlueScope general manager of manufacturing John Nowlan did not go into details about the company’s plans, but told the Mercury the restructure was part of a continuous process to enhance competitiveness.

‘‘To remain a competitive manufacturer in Australia, BlueScope’s Port Kembla operation has to continually overcome year-on-year escalation costs,’’ he said in a statement.

‘‘These include the increasing costs of energy, raw materials, labour and government red and green tape.

‘‘In addition to meeting these cost challenges, we also have to be flexible in how we best match plant output to meet the expected market demand.

‘‘We are not proposing wholesale changes, individual departments are reviewing their operations on an ongoing basis to find the most productive, efficient and flexible way of meeting these challenges.

‘‘Whilst most discussions are still at the early phase of consultation, it is inevitable that some of the changes will regrettably lead to some of our people leaving the business. 

‘‘As always, we would first look to redeployment opportunities within the business.’’

Mr Phillips said he had not been able to get a meeting with Mr Nowlan despite repeated requests.

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