Manufacturing industry downturn

Unions fear a dramatic decrease in Gippsland’s manufacturing industry in the past five years will continue in the wake of job cuts across Victoria.

Since 2008, the amount of Gippsland residents employed within the manufacturing industry dropped from 10,700 to 7400 in February 2013.

Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union organiser Ian Thomas said manufacturing in the Latrobe Valley and Australia was struggling.

“All manufacturers in Australia are struggling, you only need to look at the car companies, the high Australian dollar plays a big part in it,” Mr Thomas said, speaking a day before Ford Australia’s announcement it would close manufacturing plants in Broadmeadows and Geelong, with 1200 workers set to lose their jobs.

Mr Thomas said there was a lot less manufacturing than normal because of the economic downturn and the cancelled Yallourn power maintenance shutdown.

“(Cancelling this shut) would have created a lot less work in the workshops (separate manufacturers) so the unemployment has definitely increased this year,” he said.

In another blow to the Valley’s manufacturing sector, earlier this month GippsAero made about 40 workers redundant claiming it was due to the high Australian dollar.

GippsAero previously was able to keep up with international markets because of its niche products.

Contradicting the downturn is food manufacturer Lion Foods, which employs more than 200 people and has been manufacturing yogurt and other dairy goods in Morwell for the past 15 years.

Lion Foods regional operations director Ken Sanders said a $50 million redevelopment of the Morwell site coupled with Lion’s ongoing investment in staff training and development demonstrated the company’s confidence in the manufacturing industry in the Morwell region.

“The investment in Morwell has been made partly because it’s in a rural area with room for expansion in the future and its proximity to quality milk from dairy farmers in Victoria,” Mr Sanders said.

The Morwell plant exports about five per cent of its volume produced at the site to South East Asia.