The business media, and an increasing number of politicians, are claiming that the economic crisis has passed and we are entering into a sustained period of “recovery”. Try telling that to the 600 workers who will be sacked following the closure of Bridgestone Australia’s Adelaide plant, announced in October.
These sackings are the latest in the battered manufacturing industry, which has shed 77,000 jobs over the past year.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has been at the center of discussions with Bridgestone and the government about possibilities for retraining and reemployment.
But what is needed is a fight to save the jobs.
Executive director of the Australian Institute for Social Research, John Spoehr, said he expected almost one third of the workers not to find another job.
“This announcement… occurs during a period where unemployment is rising and underemployment very high”.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann has tried to talk up the ability of the South Australian economy, and particularly its resource sector, to absorb the job losses.
But more than 12,000 mining jobs have also been slashed over the past year.
The sackings came despite a $7.85 million profit posted by the company for the last financial year, bolstered by more than 20 years of significant financial support from the federal government.
Neither the company nor the government will reveal how much public money has been spent.
Unions should be demanding the government step in to secure both the jobs and the public’s long standing investment in the plant. If necessary the company should be nationalised.
In March this year, 480 workers at the Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland were similarly threatened. They occupied the plant for 8 weeks, won ongoing employment for 176 people and proper redundancies for the rest.
A response like this at Bridgestone could yield similar results. We won’t reverse the job carnage until unions start fighting sackings head on.
By Paddy Gibson

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