About 500 workers took to the streets of Geelong on April 7 demanding support for manufacturing jobs.
Many workers were from Ford and Alcoa, which have recently announced closures. Workers from other related industries also attended along with firefighters, nurses and teachers showing solidarity on the march.
Not all workers and unions were from blue-collar backgrounds. Clerical workers, technical staff and support services are also affected by the closures.
Australian Services Union state secretary Ingrid Stitt said Geelong workers did not want charity — they wanted money invested in jobs for the future. Stitt called on all levels of government to put support behind manufacturing jobs.
The rally was addressed by speakers from the Australian Workers Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Australian Education Union. Victorian ALP deputy opposition leader James Merlino pledged funding, training and a job plan for Geelong.
Geelong Trades Hall Secretary Tim Gooden said: “No dedicated funding has been forthcoming from Alcoa or the federal and state governments since Alcoa announced its closure six weeks ago.
"Previous structural adjustments funds like the Ford fund announced by the Gillard government last year have a tried and proven formula to calculate the amount of funding to inject into a community to offset major job losses.
"In Geelong’s case, $24.5 million was allocated solely for Geelong within a week of the announcement. Using the same formula for Alcoa which is sacking more workers, the Geelong Innovation and Investment Fund (GIIF) should be extended by nearly $40 million.
“I know there are manufacturing companies in Geelong that would able to employ more workers if the GIIF is extended. But it appears the federal government is still trying to get the car industry rescue package off the ground and intend putting any money from Alcoa into that fund to be shared with South Australia.
“It would be a pointless exercise if money was put into a so-called growth fund and then spent on infrastructure projects like the East West tunnel in Melbourne, which nobody seems to want. It would be most unlikely that Alcoa or Ford manufacturing workers would get a job on that project. Geelong needs a structural adjustment package dedicated to Geelong workers and this government is now five weeks late against best practice.
“The other key issue in the march was that training must be free and accessible. Workers have trained all their lives for these big companies and are highly skilled, but many of their competencies are specific and only recognised in-house.
"Workers need to have Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to have their skills accepted in other parts of Australia. This should all be done before leaving their current employment.
“To do this we need our TAFE, the Gordon, now more than ever and it must have funding fully restored. The state government has cut $23 million out of our local TAFE."