Contractors to take BlueScope jobs: union

• Berkeley steelworker wary of other agenda

The union representing Port Kembla steelworks said jobs and money would be leaving the Illawarra if BlueScope's latest round of job cuts goes ahead as planned.

The latest estimate is that 73 jobs would go as the steelmaker looks to outsource more work to contractors, while amalgamating some positions to combine plant operations and trades work.

Australian Workers Union branch secretary Wayne Phillips said the likely contractor was from outside the region.

The latest cuts were a "kick in the guts" to the workers who had seen the steelworks through the global financial crisis, and a big restructure in 2011, he said.

"There's got to be some loyalty shown by BlueScope for us, our members and the local community.

"In the GFC and November 2011, when they turfed out a lot of people, we bent over backwards to help this company," Mr Phillips said.

"Now this is the thanks we get. Why are they dumping on the Illawarra? We have worked really co-operatively with this company since the GFC and we deserve better."

Union delegates will meet on Thursday evening to discuss how to respond to the plans.

Mr Phillips and the delegates who spoke to the Mercury said the contractors who would replace the workers were likely to be paid $10 to $12 less an hour, as they would be on a different award wage.

A BlueScope spokesman said the company did not have anything to add to its comments when the Mercury revealed the job-cutting program three weeks ago.

Then, BlueScope's general manager of manufacturing, John Nowlan, said the company had to continually overcome escalating costs to remain competitive.

"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," he said.

"As part of this process, BlueScope's senior management regularly consult with our employees and their union representatives to work through how best to implement any proposed changes.

"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 re-deployment opportunities within the business."

BlueScope said it has about 3500 direct employees in the Illawarra, plus contractors.