BlueScope lowers production and cuts 170 jobs
BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX:BSL) says it will slash about 170 jobs and lower production levels at its Western Port steel facility in Victoria.PT0M38S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2coia 620 349 January 14, 2013
The first day back at work can be tough, but BlueScope Steel worker Tony Hutt's return from holiday was made worse after his employer announced it would cut nearly a quarter of the 750 jobs at its Western Port plant.
''The Australian dollar has destroyed our export market,'' said Mr Hutt, a veteran of 15 years at the steel maker, which will shed 170 staff and be restructured by the end of March.
The job losses are only the latest at the company, best known for making Colorbond steel roofing.
Workers Shane Burd, left, and Billy Hassan. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
BlueScope has already cut about 1500 positions after making two consecutive annual losses of $1 billion, blaming the high Australian dollar and a weak steel market for the results.
For Mr Hutt, Monday's announcement was a double blow, as he has bought shares in the company in various staff offers.
''It's a double whammy for us, because our jobs are under threat and our nest egg has shrunk considerably,'' he said.
The company's shares closed up 1¢ at $3.71 on Monday, and have risen from $1.47 last July. But in early 2007 they were trading above $12 each.
BlueScope will offer voluntary redundancy packages first, with applications from workers due by the end of January.
''And if they don't get enough, they will tap us on the shoulder,'' said Billy Hassan, who has worked at the plant since the early 1980s.
Another worker, Shane Burd, said Monday had been the first day the entire workforce was back from holidays.
He said the ageing workforce at the plant meant BlueScope might get enough volunteers.
''A few guys who missed out the last time around will probably put their hands up. And others might think they can't deal with the stress.''
BlueScope Australia and New Zealand chief executive Mark Vassella said Monday's job cuts and changes to follow would save about $17 million, to be ''recovered within one year'' by reducing costs.
The Hastings plant, the biggest employer on the Mornington Peninsula, had already cut 200 jobs in mid-2011 as part of an earlier restructure.
Macquarie analyst Liam Farlow said weak market conditions in Australian residential construction had forced the cost-cutting measure.
Australian Workers' Union Victorian secretary Cesar Melhem said BlueScope remained ''top heavy'', and should be sacking managers first.
The company, faced with the introduction of the carbon tax, got substantial funding from the Gillard government. ''Questions have to be asked about how that money has been used,'' Mr Melhem said.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet announced a $100 million payment to BlueScope in December 2011 for restructuring operations.
With GLENDA KWEK, AAP