The loss of 1400 jobs at BlueScope Steel is a devastating blow for the retrenched workers and the manufacturing industry, the Australian Workers Union (AWU) says.
BlueScope, which owns New Zealand Steel, operator of the Glenbrook steel mill, confirmed yesterday that it would shut down its number six blast furnace at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, and close its Western Port hot strip mill, east of Melbourne.
"Today's announcement is devastating for the families of more than 1400 workers who will be feeling the trauma and distress that comes with the loss of a secure income," AWU national secretary Paul Howes said.
It further strengthened the union's call for action on the Chinese yuan, a robust anti-dumping system and strong local procurement policies for the resources sector, Howes said.
The BlueScope closures sent a clear signal that Australian manufacturing was facing its worst crisis since the Great Depression, he said.
"We've got to face the reality of the manufacturing crisis that's before us. We can't accept job losses as the norm and we can't rely on imported goods in our strategic sectors."
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) said Australian manufacturing was under extraordinary pressure from the booming dollar, record-high terms of trade and unfair competition from illegal foreign dumping.
"Local industry is not being given a fair go to work on the mining and resource projects which are driving the dollar sky-high," AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver said in a joint statement with Howes.
Australia could not just rely on mining, Oliver said.
"The benefits of the mining boom come with very big downsides and 1400 families today have learned the hard way about the downsides."
But with clever policies, Australia could build its manufacturing sector up on the back of the mining boom, Oliver said.
Howes said "cracking down" on China's "currency manipulation" should be right at the top of Australia's foreign policy agenda.
Estimates suggested that Chinawas undervaluing the yuan by up to 40 per cent, which was driving export industries and jobs to China at the expense of Australian industry.