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AWU members head to Canberra in bid to save jobs at Keppel Prince

March 25, 2021

More than 40 Victorian workers lost their jobs at Portland engineering company Keppel Prince last week after a contract to help build 52 towers for the Ryan Corner wind farm near Port Fairy went to an overseas company.

The move saw 26 workers made redundant and 16 more voluntary redundancies after Murra Warra Wind Farm contractor Vestas cancelled its contract with Keppel Prince.

The AWU and other unions have been lobbying hard to stop governments and businesses going offshore for procurement at the expense of Australian jobs.

Last week AWU National Secretary Dan Walton said governments could, “with the stroke of a pen, choose to have a massive and direct effect on procurement.

“When we build roads, bridges, tunnels, schools and hospitals, it should be done using Australian-made products.

“We have to be looking for every chance to build these projects with Australian steel, Australian aluminium, Australian glass, and Australian manufactured products.”

In response to the sackings AWU Assistant National Secretary Misha Zelinsky and AMWU National Secretary Steve Murphy accompanied AWU members Tim Walls (a young father who was made redundant last Friday by Prince Keppel) and Selwyn Jones (a Portland Alcoa aluminium smelter worker) to Canberra to address several government ministers and opposition shadows.

Also there were AMWU members Jamie and Dean, who work at the sites.

Tim, It’s time the Federal Government stepped up to the plate and backed these workers’ jobs.”

Said Dean, “The fix is easy and lies in the Federal Government’s hands. All we are asking is that a percentage of these projects be made with local steel and local jobs.”

The delegation spoke about the jobs that could be saved and made, and the families and regional areas relying on them, and lobbied for local-content rules to be introduced for companies such as wind farm builders Vestas and GPG.

AWU members pointed out the cruel irony of massive wind farm projects being built right next door to the Keppel Prince facility with imported steel and products.

The group also stressed the role the Federal Government could play by insisting on local content in contracts arranged though Snowy Hydro and the Clean Energy Finance Corp as they develop those projects.

Misha Zelinsky noted that manufacturing meant good secure jobs for regional communities. “We hear a lot about green jobs – well, the best green jobs are in manufacturing clean energy projects just like wind towers.”

The delegation was met by Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan,  Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, and Energy and Emission Reduction Minister Angus Taylor.

The three ministers said they were committed to the importance of local content and promised to arrange meetings with Vestas and GPG, as well as help work with NSW and ACT governments on local requirements.

Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation Ed Husic and Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy Chris Bowen also met the delegation and promised to lobby on local content, especially with the NSW and ACT governments.

Mr Husic said energy had an important part to play in the production of the energy of the future.

“We are saying we want to see Australian steel in those projects,” he said. “The message is: Using Aussie steel saves Aussie jobs.

“It’s also important that Vestas and other companies realise the reputational damage they do to themselves by turning their backs on Aussie steel.”

Chris Bowen stressed that clean energy should mean more manufacturing jobs, not less.

“If we get this right, we can have a massive expansion of high quality, highly paid jobs.”

Watch Tim speak of the devastating impact his redundancy will have on his family:

Support Tim and Australian manufacturing workers, and sign the petition for local products on local projects.

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