Victoria Government Steps In to Save Alcoa Jobs

Victoria Premier Ted Baillieu will meet on Friday with Alcoa Chief Executive Alan Cransberg in an attempt to save 600 jobs on the line. Mr Cransberg said earlier this week that the company is planning to close its Geelong plant because of the strong Australian dollar and weak metal prices.

The country's currency traded at $US1.08 on Wednesday night, which worsened the manufacturing sector's problems by making it more expensive to export, but cheaper to import products such as aluminium which Alcoa produces.

Alcoa initially planned to close the Geelong facility in July. The firm is conducting a global review of its operations, but excludes Alcoa's Portland operations.

Officials of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) also met with Alcoa executives to save 600 jobs which could be lost if the smelter shutters after four decades of operation. If the plant would close, affected workers would have to move interstate to search for jobs that pay similar rates, AWU Secretary Cesar Melhem said.

Victoria Treasurer Kim Wells said there is a need for a discussion to better understand Alcoa's input cost and other options available to keep the facility open for a longer period of time and save jobs.

"They're talking about the high Australian dollar. Well, the state government doesn't influence that, low worldwide aluminium costs and prices, we don't influence that, so we have to determine what we can work out with Alcoa," 9 News quoted Mr Wells.

The treasurer said that it is not only aluminium smelters that are affected by the high Australian dollar, but also other sectors such as education, tourism and manufacturing.

"We need to make sure that we are working with these companies and these sectors to make sure that they are sustainable during this period," Mr Wells added.

The strong currency has been blamed by other Australian companies such as BHP Billiton, Holden, Manildra, Reckitt Benckiser, Toyota, O-I Australia, Westpac, ANZ Bank and Thales which are laying off hundreds of workers.

BHP, besides its plan to temporarily close its nickel mining operations at Mt Keith due to depressed prices for the metal, is also in a labor dispute with coal miners in Queensland who would likely begin on Friday a week-long strike over wages and work conditions.

The BHP miners at its Port Kembla coal terminal in New South Wales have actually started their work stoppage this week after negotiations broke down.

BHP Chief Executive Marius Kloppers blamed on Wednesday changes in Australia's workplace laws for making it hard for management and unions to resolve labor disputes which placed more claims before the negotiating table beyond benefits and salaries.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten suggested for Mr Kloppers and executives of other Australian companies who are concerned about how the Fair Work System operates should make a submission to the federal government which has commissioned an independent, expert review of the Fair Work Act.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Other Topics