Fears for local jobs as BHP plans offshore steel work
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union State secretary fears BHP Billiton’s plans to send structural steel work offshore will have a detrimental effect on Kwinana’s manufacturing industry.
Steve McCartney has written to BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie seeking answers about the company’s plans to send 24,000 tonnes of steel work overseas as part of its upgrades to the South Flank iron ore project.
Mr McCartney said past work in the industry indicated such an amount of steel fabrication being sent overseas would equate to about 2000 manufacturing jobs being lost to WA, including jobs that would have filtered to manufacturing in Kwinana.
“Sending steel offshore for a cheaper manufacturing rate would betray local workers and encourage a new mining tax levied on (BHP) operations,” he said.
“In the Premier’s first speech to the WA mining industry he declared that the State Government would demand jobs for West Australians from industry in place of a mining tax.
“WA has a world-class manufacturing industry and the capacity to handle advanced steel fabrication.”
Mr McCartney pointed to the recently opened Matagarup Bridge — built in WA by West Australian workers — as an example of the industry’s ability, and said suburbs close to leading steel fabrication and engineering hubs had some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country.
“Why are (BHP) not supporting upstream and downstream manufacturing and training opportunities for WA’s young people,” he said.
“BHP profits from a valuable resource that belongs to all West Australians. The trade-off for extracting this one-off resource is local jobs and infrastructure spending in WA. BHP has ignored the Premier’s demands to put WA workers and WA jobs first.”
BHP said in response that the $4.7 billion mine project would create about 2500 jobs during construction and 600 ongoing operational roles. South Flank will replace the Yandi mine, which is set to be de-commissioned, and is set to open in 2021.
Despite AMWU’s fears, WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt has welcomed the project and called it a vote of confidence in WA’s longterm economy.
He said it should give West Australians confidence in the value of the mining industry.
AMWU State secretary Steve McCartney in Kwinana.
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt.