Job cuts lead region to industry 'crisis point'
With another 20 jobs on the chopping block at MM Kembla, an Illawarra union leader has said the region has reached a "crisis point" for the manufacturing sector.
The Port Kembla-based manufacturer has confirmed it will make between 15 and 20 jobs redundant at its factory, not long after it cut 50 jobs in December.
Together the moves have reduced the workforce almost to half what it was a year ago.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union lead organiser Brad Hattenfels said the sector had taken blow after blow and before long it could be too late to save it.
"We've lost a lot of manufacturing," he said. "We're at crisis point here in the Illawarra for heavy manufacturing.
"This is a steel city that was built on heavy manufacturing, and it's dying a slow death of 1000 cuts.
"It will die unless we get some assistance from government to help prop up manufacturing."
Mr Hattenfels said governments needed to make sure major contracts were filled in regions that needed the work, or the jobless rates would climb.
MM Kembla tube and fittings executive general manager Rupert Blatch blamed the cuts on the company's struggles with high power and transport costs, as well as the effect of free trade agreements on Australian manufacturers.
"Like many Australian manufacturers, to remain competitive MM Kembla has to overcome the impacts of multiple external factors," he said.
"These external factors include: the doubling of energy costs over the past five years; high transport costs which result in us paying a premium for raw materials compared to our overseas competitors; the high Australian dollar which has reduced our competitiveness against imports; and the progressive establishment of free trade agreements and subsequent tariff removal.
"This decision [to cut jobs] is not a reflection of our employees' work performance, who have continued to adapt and battle to counter the impact of these external factors, which are out of MM Kembla's control.
"We will continue to consult with and provide support to our employees over the coming weeks."