Port Kembla's steel mill may be in jeopardy: union

Steel mills across the world are closing and might not reopen, the head of the Australian Workers Union has warned on the eve of a visit to Wollongong.AWU national secretary Paul Howes has called for "smart national leadership" to avert a similar crisis in Australia. Mr Howes will meet BlueScope Steel workers at Port Kembla today, just days before the union releases a plan it hopes will help the beleaguered Australian steel industry through the global economic crisis.The union has been visiting major steel centres around the country since last Monday, with the issue of job security top priority.The union has called for federal intervention in the nation's steel industry and will present the Government with what is being called a 21st century Steel Plan later this week."Australia needs to urgently adopt a 21st century Steel Plan. We need a stratagem to save a key industry in the face of the global economic crisis," Mr Howes said."Our union is working with members, think tanks and our national economic research unit."Details of today's visit to Port Kembla to discuss the plan with workers was announced yesterday as part of a union statement which highlighted the serious position the steel industry is in."Steel plant furnaces across the globe are shutting down and many may well not re-open, after the global economic crisis is over," the statement read."Australia's steel union warns this is a grim reality, but it can be avoided by smart national leadership acting now."Steel works around the country, including at Port Kembla, have reduced production over recent months due to the falling demand for steel worldwide.As part of the steel plan, the union will address concerns over the Federal Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme."You could not, in the current ... working environment, avoid talking about that," a union spokesman told the Mercury.Earlier this month BlueScope chief executive Noel Cornish said the viability of the Port Kembla steelworks - along with the 12,000 jobs it supports - would be under threat if the scheme took effect in its present form.But Australian Workers Union Port Kembla branch secretary Andy Gillespie said BlueScope was jumping the gun given no final decision on the scheme had been made."The union has been locked in heavy discussions with the Federal Government with the assistance of our local members ... those discussions are not finalised and are ongoing," he said at the time."(BlueScope) should just wait and see what is going to happen instead of putting the fear of Christ into the workforce."

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