Illawarra unions want more from govt


Unions on the NSW south coast stung by the prospect of massive job losses are demanding a large boost in the federal government’s support for the struggling region.

The South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) has called for a significant and immediate cash injection in the Illawarra economy after BlueScope Steel’s announcement last week that it was shedding more than 1000 jobs.

The federal government has promised $30 million to help restructure the region’s economy and $10 million to help sacked steel workers.

But SCLC secretary Arthur Rorris says that contribution is like “trying to zip-start a jumbo jet with a whipper snipper cord” as the region heads for economic doom.

“The steel industry job losses are a massive hit for the region which will rip billions of dollars out of our regional economy in the coming years,” Mr Rorris said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Thirty million dollars is a start but it won’t even come close to dealing with the scale of the economic disaster looming for the Illawarra region and the thousands of other jobs now at risk.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in the Illawarra on Tuesday to reassure workers that the government could manage the region’s problems.

She would not commit to a regional stimulus package, preferring first to rely on funding measures already announced by the government.

The SCLC, which claims to represent 50,000 workers through its 29 affiliated trade unions, said the region needed immediate action, not “another long-term plan”.

BlueScope announced last week that it was axing 1000 workers and closing its export business.

About 800 of those jobs are being shed from the company’s Port Kembla plant in the Illawarra, with the rest to come from its Western Port hot strip mill in Victoria.

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