Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1616      October 30, 2013

Workers face tough choices after Bathurst job cuts

The NSW town of Bathurst is facing the greatest challenge to its industrial base with the loss of jobs at its Simplot food processing plant coming after an earlier decision to close its Downer EDI rail locomotive works. 

The Simplot decision to cut 110 jobs, announced last week, comes after union members at the town’s rail locomotive works were pondering whether to take redundancy or move to other Downer EDI sites where 100 jobs will be transferred.

The Australian manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is in ongoing talks with the company to make it as easy as possible for members to transfer to other Downer EDI sites if they wish, as the jobs situation for skilled tradespeople in the NSW Central West looks increasingly tough.

The failure of the NSW government to allocate funds from its $6 billion transport war chest to local rail was blamed by the AMWU for the Downer EDI locomotive shop closure.

AMWU organiser Ian Morrison said most of the skilled work for boilermakers, electrical fitters and machinists would be transferred to the Downer EDI works at Cardiff in the Hunter Valley or to Victoria’s Newport rail workshop.

“The NSW government has not prioritised building rolling stock in Australia and for the North West rail they were prepared to send the work to China,” he said.

He said Downer EDI was among NSW rail manufacturers planning consolidation of sites due to the uncertainty of NSW government contracts, with the future of the Cardiff operations and other Hunter Valley rail facilities under threat when the outfitting of the imported Waratah trains finishes in early 2014.

Morrison and other union officials have already met Downer EDI management to discuss re-deployment and redundancy arrangements.

While some of the experienced workforce may retire with a redundancy package, many of the 40 AMWU members have young families, mortgages and strong personal ties to Bathurst which will make moving extremely difficult.

Redundancy terms included three weeks per year with a maximum of 73 weeks, plus a 25 percent loading for any employee aged over 45.

AMWU delegate Andy Dundas said the locomotive workforce is working on with dignity, sticking to their professional tasks until the situation becomes clearer as unions talk with management.

“The job situation is pretty bleak in Central West NSW, some younger blokes with mortgages and families will have to look at leaving,” he said.

“But then there’s the problem that the house values here are not so high, at least 30 percent less than some of the other places where the work is so it is hard to sell up.”

Downer EDI are expected to maintain the Bathurst site until at least Christmas, with a wind down early in 2014.

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