BlueScope's October 26 announcement that the Port Kembla steelworks would be saved from closure came as an obvious relief for the workforce, who had agreed to 500 job losses to save 4500 jobs, together with a three-year pay freeze and foregone bonuses for the next 12 months. These union concessions are reportedly worth $40 million to BlueScope. The New South Wales government agreed to defer $60 million in payroll tax payments over the next three years, and the company will save a further $100 million through “worker flexibility”.
More than 1000 people rallied in Wollongong on September 19 to demand the federal government take action to save jobs at the Port Kembla steelworks. Bluescope has announced it aims to cut $200 million from its operating budget and intends to sack 500 workers in the short term, with a possibility that thousands more jobs will go in the future. This is despite BlueScope posting a $134 million profit for the last financial year. Unions have launched a campaign to save the steelworks and emergency talks have been held between government ministers, unions and Bluescope management.
More than a decade ago, BHP Billiton demerged its steelmaking facilities from its then highly profitable minerals and energy division. The two steel plants in Port Kembla and Whyalla, which were formerly part of an integrated company that produced the iron ore and the coking coal for steelmaking, became stand-alone steelmakers at a time when China became a serious competitive threat. Its Port Kembla and Whyalla operations were also separated from each other, becoming BlueScope in Port Kembla and One Steel (now Arrium) in Whyalla.
Four Jobs for Women leaders in front of the steelworks in the early 1980s. Photo: Jobs for Women Facebook In Wollongong in the early 1980s, jobs for women were scarce. They either had to wake at dawn to travel to Sydney on the diesel train or they sewed in backyard sweatshops for minimal wages.
Tender Written & directed by Lynette Wallwarth A new documentary film, Tender, screened at the recent Sydney Film Festival, follows residents of the Wollongong suburb of Port Kembla who are working to start a not-for-profit funeral service in their local community. Recognising the local need for affordable and meaningful funeral services, the Port Kembla Community Centre decided to provide them. The film follows their journey as they gather community support and explore alternatives.
The NSW Coalition government’s decision to privatise two large ports was announced in July last year. It expected to receive $3 billion from the sale. NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said on April 12 that the consortium NSW Ports would buy 99-year leases for two of the state’s international ports — Port Botany for $4.31 billion and Port Kembla for $760 million. The total cost of the sale would be $5.07 billion. An additional yearly lease payment of $5 million would be paid to the government and the annual on cap container movement of 3.2 million would be abolished for Port Botany.