Monday, 23 December 2013

As Abbott Government members prepare for Christmas Day's good food and wine, sitting atop their fat weekly salary and entitlement packages, they won't be remembering the disasters they've caused in the last three months

The Abbott Government may be able to shrug off any thought of the growing number of problems their wingnut approach to governing has caused. Many thousands of ordinary Australians won’t have that luxury.

So out of touch is his government that apparently Prime Minister Abbott believes he has done Australia a favour by hastening GM Holden out the door.

ABC News 18 December 2013:

Holden announced last week that it would stop making cars in Australia by 2017 due to a "perfect storm" of poor economic conditions.
Its decision will put 2,900 people out of work - 1,600 from the manufacturing plant in South Australia and 1,300 in Victoria.
Mr Abbott has conceded that some workers will have difficulty finding new jobs.
"Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives," he said. [my red bolding]

However, the Abbott Government is not supplying all of this funding and neither will the fund have the automotive industry, or South Australia and Victoria, as its only focus.

Abbott expects Victoria and South Australia to contribute $12 million each to his federal fund and GM Holden a further $20 million.

Though why he expects Holden to pay tens of millions of dollars on top of the severance/
redundancy packages it negotiates with its workers, Abbott does not explain.

Nor does he explain why workers should find being without employment in 2017 a liberating event.

Those employed in the automotive industry and their families have a different perspective.

Stock Journal 13 December 2013:

My father made headrests. For 30 years, his job was to build and design tools – metal punches and gauges within a machine – that would be used in the mass production of parts for Toyota, Holden and Ford.
A headrest begins as a drawing. It was my father's job to interpret those drawings; to transform the engineer's dream into reality.
My dad could tell when a drawing, and the subsequent tool he would be required to create, was a millimetre out. Foreign companies with hundreds of highly qualified experts would pay the price for not listening to my father.
Down the line, thousands of component parts would be recalled because that millimetre mistake meant it fitted poorly into another component manufactured somewhere else. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, the time and energy of many men and women, wasted.
It was a regular thing for my dad to be called after hours and on weekends about a mass production emergency. The tool would return to him, and he would painstakingly repair it, sometimes completely rewriting the drawings. His job required great precision and skill. He had no university degree; no flash title.
My dad was blue-collar to the core. Every day, he put on a sky blue three-quarter length coat made of stiff cotton over his clothes. He did this to protect himself from the curls of steel that spat out from the grinding machines. He always looked like a scientist to me. I didn't realise the colour of his collar classed him in any way or would make politicians think his work less meaningful and more disposable.
Australia needs cars. This is a vast land, criss-crossed by roads instead of train lines. Hundreds of thousands of Australian lives, stories like my father's, are connected to the production of them. Every journey from A to B, from design to vehicle testing, is underpinned by a family like mine.
Dollars can't create headrests. People do. When economists write about the future of the car industry in Australia, they rarely focus on the stories of people. It's all about the bottom line.
Taking into account the impact on people of losing car manufacturing in Australia is not sentimental. Nor is it complicated. Investment in car manufacturing is a simple public policy choice.
We can choose for Australia to make cars by supporting the industry to pay our people decent, humane wages, so that motor vehicles continue to be manufactured on our continent. We can keep hundreds of thousands of people in employment and small, Australian-owned businesses afloat and skills, like my father's, onshore.

Or, we can choose to walk away, and gift some other country with the people and profit of an entire industry. We can blame the rise of China and India for an oversupply of cheap labour and give away our artistry as automotive workers; skills we have spent a century building up........

Holden announced yesterday that some of the very best jobs in Australia will be cut, including many of our engineering members.

Thursday, 12 December 2013
As these members would tell you, this isn't just a crisis in manufacturing, it's a crisis in engineering. 

Over recent days I and our members at Holden have been making the point to governments through the media that they have let us down.

We have been warning the governments for months that this was on the cards.

In fact we predicted this very scenario in December two years ago.

And just two months ago we organised for 350 engineers to write to the Napthine Government and explain how they feared they were about to lose their jobs.

Since then Professional Engineers Australia spent countless hours working to prevent what appears was inevitable.

Governments were warned multiple times yet the Abbott, Napthine and Weatherill governments just simply weren't able to sort it out.  

Now it looks like up to 90 per cent of the 500 engineers who work at Holden will lose their jobs.

Of course, this is just the start of the problem. Highly skilled jobs will no doubt be shed from component manufacturers where we also have many engineering members. On top of that other suppliers and businesses that our members use every day will be affected in some way in all parts of the Australian economy.

Some commentators have even speculated that this could lead to an economic recession – particularly in Victoria and South Australia.

Right now what this country needs is leadership.

Now that this has happened we need Canberra to do some work and tell us what the future of this country is for our highly skilled engineers.

By the end of the summer I would hope that the Abbott Government will have come up with a comprehensive industry plan that maps out how the government will help the Australian economy continue to grow and where the new jobs will come from.

Governments have failed us this week and I hope they would now do the hard work required to set a new direction, or they risk failing us again.

It beggars belief that these job cuts were announced so close to Christmas – putting uncertainty in the heart of many families who would otherwise have been focussed on celebrating together.

But the fallout from this will not just impact on people's summer breaks, there will be many months of ambiguity, anxiety and difficult decisions for many of our members.

And as you would expect Professionals Australia will be working hard to help our members through these difficult times.  

We will help them get the packages they deserve, we will be helping them get the retaining they need for a bright new future and we will be helping them find great new jobs.

It is worth pointing out that we have not given up on Holden retaining a significant portion of their engineering capacity and we will be talking to Holden management about this in the coming days.

Chris Walton
Professionals Australia

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