Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1614      October 16, 2013

Union urges Electrolux to stay in Orange

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) members have been urged to join the NSW community of Orange in their fight to keep their largest employer from relocating production of Australian fridges and freezers to Thailand.

The fate of 500 jobs at the Electrolux plant and hundreds more in the Orange region depends upon the company’s board in Sweden recognising the high quality of its research and production in NSW as suitable for its next generation of products, with a decision expected by mid-December.

A positive outcome would see the Orange plant – which makes a third of the freezers and fridges sold in Australia – gaining Swedish investment to expand production of Electrolux, Westinghouse and Kelvinator brands by a further 30 percent.

That would include a big boost in exports to South East Asia.

But if the company chooses to put its investment into its plant in Rayong, Thailand, it would likely lead to winding down and closure of Orange from 2015.

The potential annual loss to the region in jobs and investment would be nearly $100 million dollars a year – a catastrophic economic and social impact on the NSW Central West.

AMWU state secretary Tim Ayres said the Orange factory made about 400,000 fridges and freezers of varying size each year for Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

It also had a world-class research and development centre with 44 expert staff.

Orange produces the highest quality products of any Electrolux plant worldwide, with repair rates far lower than overseas plants and remains profitable in the face of cheaper import competition.

“It’s crunch time for Electrolux,” he said.

“Now is the time to stand up for the local workforce and retaining the skills and expertise Australia needs. The company’s board need to know how strong our members’ case is.”

The union urged members to send a message of support for Electrolux in Orange directly to the chairman of the company’s board in Sweden, Marcus Wallenberg, via www.buildthemhere.com.au.

A decision could come at board meetings on October 24 or December 12.

Mr Ayres said the federal and NSW Coalition governments could likely secure the future of Electrolux Australia if they were prepared to co-invest $41 million as a contribution toward the factory’s upgrade.

The NSW government has put forward a package to Electrolux management but would not reveal whether this included $3 million in payroll tax relief the company is seeking.

“This is one of the clearest choices imaginable between the high road of an innovative, highly-skilled, properly-paid workforce and the low cost road of cheap labour,” Mr Ayres said.

“It’s an investment in Australia selling the world’s most energy-efficient refrigerators into Asia, and that fits perfectly with the federal government’s emphasis on encouraging export industries.

“There’s no reason for not helping this vital regional enterprise to flourish.”

Electrolux AMWU delegate Tony Cardwell said the local workforce was anxiously awaiting the response from both the NSW and federal government.

“Our products are extremely reliable and competitive because we have a vastly experienced workforce,” Mr Cardwell said.

“The community is acutely aware of the situation because Electrolux is Orange. I’m third generation here and everyone has a mum, an aunt, big sister or other family member who’s worked here.”

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