Qantas sackings add to Geelong's jobs disaster

Issue 
The number of jobs lost, or soon to go, in Geelong totals 1100.

Qantas has announced the closure of its maintenance base for Boeing 747 aircraft at Avalon airport in Victoria. About 300 workers are to be sacked, most of them from the local town of Geelong.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has questioned company claims that the jobs will be transferred to the more efficient Brisbane maintenance base, suggesting that a shortage of skilled workers in Brisbane will mean the maintenance is mainly done offshore in south-east Asia.

These job losses add to a long string of bad news for employment in Geelong.

Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden told Green Left Weekly the total number of jobs lost, or soon to go, now totals more than 1100, and a similar number is likely to follow soon.

Companies that have confirmed they are laying off staff include Target, Blue Circle, Barwon Water and Ford. Local CSIRO jobs are also under threat as part of federal government cuts.

Gooden called for government intervention to help the hard-hit regional town. “Without a government economic plan, or industry plan, to deliberately intervene in, direct or control the market, workers are at the mercy of boardrooms and the market,” he said.

“We'd like more control of our destiny, and less control in the hands of boardroom members on a yacht in the Mediterranean somewhere.”

A common principle of economic modelling is that jobs in some industries create others, dependent on them in various ways, through a flow-on effect known as a jobs multiplier.

Gooden said that for manufacturing work such as at Ford, where 510 jobs will be cut in 2016, each job has a multiplier of three, meaning that “from lunch cafes to the people that supply the toilet paper” there are two more jobs dependent on the first. “All those workers at a trade production level earn and spend about $1500 a week in the community.”

In heavy industry such as at Alcoa and Shell — where 1050 jobs are at threat — Gooden said the multiplier is more like seven because of the number of contractors who work on site alongside the permanent workforce.

For one example, Gooden said the contractor, Gordon McKay, “has 30 electricians at Shell, not included in the 450 permanent positions that will go”. There are many other contracting companies in a similar position.

Based on these multipliers, if Shell and Alcoa also close, there could be a total of about 10,000 jobs lost.

According to statistics from the City of Greater Geelong, the town has just over 300,000 residents, with about 100,000 in the workforce — and about 80,000 people working in the Greater Geelong area.

“There is potential slowly moving forward for new, alternative manufacturing,” Gooden said.

“There are a few jobs in alternative energy, and in materials such as carbon fibre. But that's all semi-accidental, not a deliberate strategy of government.”