Victoria job cuts 'good news' for Illawarra

Job cuts at BlueScope’s Victorian plant have helped secure the future of employees at the company’s Port Kembla operations.

BlueScope has announced it will axe up to 170 jobs from its Western Port mill, south-east of Melbourne, as production of Colorbond and other lines is scaled back.

Some of that work will shift to the Port Kembla plant, which has just undergone a $30 million upgrade to allow it to make the next generation of metallic coated and painted products.

"There won't be any negative impacts to the Port Kembla site," a BlueScope spokesman confirmed.

"There will be some positive flow-on effects for the Springhill plant here at Port Kembla, which will actually load up more in terms of the volume of throughput through its site."

Australian Workers Union Port Kembla secretary Wayne Phillips said the move offered some security Illawarra employees.

‘‘It’s certainly no good for the guys in Western Port but it secures some of our positions here,’’ Mr Phillips said.

‘‘The irony of all this is that for all these years we’ve lost work here to either overseas or interstate or other plants within the state, so it’s good to see something come back to here.’’

BlueScope's decision is part of an "Australia-wide production configuration" by the company, which included the closure of a blast furnace at Port Kembla in 2011.

The BlueScope spokesman said moving some of the work from Western Port to Wollongong was more cost-effective because it provided a "better utilisation of the current people and the assets".

"It was cost-effective across the board, meaning the existing lines and production configuration at Port Kembla can run more closely to capacity in terms of the shift patterns we've got on at Port Kembla already."

It is understood that no new jobs will be created - the plan is to organise the shift patterns of the existing workers to cater to the extra work.

The spokesman said sending more work to Port Kembla was good news for workers at the plant.

"It's always better to have a line like Springhill more loaded than not," he said.

"The Springhill facility has just had close to a $30 million upgrade in preparation for the next generation of Zincalume and Colorbond products that will come out this year. So it's certainly good for that plant."

Mr Phillips said he did not think the Victorian job losses meant more cuts were to be expected in the Illawarra. 

"I certainly haven't heard of any whispers," he said. "There is constant talk of cutting costs here at Port Kembla but I don't think it would be anywhere near like what's happening down in Victoria."

Picture: Michael Clayton-Jones

Picture: Michael Clayton-Jones

After some "big announcements" in recent years, Mr Phillips said the mood among BlueScope workers had calmed down.

"We know where we are, we're busily producing the stuff we produce. I think people are really over a panic situation or anxiety about the future of the place.

"Most people say, 'we'll do what we can. If it shuts, it shuts, if it remains open then that's good for the Illawarra'."


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