Shock news: Workers David Browne, Vince Purcell, Ben Bernabe and James A’Hern said they heard of the review two weeks ago. Photo: Edwina PicklesThe last aluminium recycling plant in NSW will close, leaving about 180 workers in western Sydney out of a job. Alcoa has also announced it will shut its Point Henry aluminium smelter and a rolling mill in Geelong, Victoria, resulting in the loss of 980 jobs in August.
The company said the 50-year-old Victorian smelter was no longer economically viable.
A spokeswoman for Alcoa said the closure of Alcoa’s aluminium rolling mill and recycling centre in Yennora in western Sydney would result in the loss of another 180 jobs.
But the company contradicted federal government claims the carbon tax led to the decision to shut the company’s Point Henry smelter and two rolling mills in Geelong and western Sydney.
Treasurer Joe Hockey and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane blamed the tax for the loss of nearly 1000 jobs.
A company spokeswoman confirmed ”the carbon tax was not a factor in the decision to close Point Henry smelter or the rolled products business”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Hockey said the company’s decision was ”disappointing”, but ”predicable’ and linked it to the carbon price imposed by the Gillard government, which he said had added to the high cost of production at the plant. He called on Labor to back the Coalition’s legislation to repeal the tax.
”The carbon tax adds to the cost of production,” he said. ”It does, no matter what people say. You cannot say the carbon tax helps with producing things in Australia.
”At the end of the day, the carbon tax is a greater cost on business. It is a massive cost on aluminium smelters, obviously. A 50-year-old smelter with a carbon tax is never going to be cost effective.”
NSW Treasurer Mike Baird also blamed the carbon price for the company’s woes.
”With higher energy costs and increased manufacturing in neighbouring Asia, Australian manufacturers are clearly facing challenges in remaining open,” he said.
”It’s time for federal Labor to support jobs and vote to repeal the carbon tax.”
Alcoa had been exempt from 94.5 per cent of its carbon tax liability for its smelting operations as a so-called emissions intensive trade-exposed industry.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said the closure was ”the next wave of blue collar job losses in western Sydney”.
”There have been jobs flowing out of the Toyota and Holden decisions and a series of closures over the last few months,” he said.
Mr Ayres said Alcoa was the only aluminium recycler in NSW, churning through 55,000 tonnes of scrap metal each year.
”It puts a question mark over whether we can recycle aluminium,” he said.
”Recycling uses 5 per cent of the energy needed to produce aluminium. All of our scrap aluminium will have to be exported.”
Mr Ayres said the federal and NSW governments had shown ”hostile indifference” to the plight of manufacturing workers facing a ”jobs crisis in NSW and particularly in western Sydney”.
He said they had no plans to ensure Australia remained competitive in manufacturing.
”We have to make sure we have the capability to build more jobs,” he said. ”Barry O’Farrell is refusing to get involved. The north west rail link is the biggest project around and there is no local jobs plan attached to it.”
Vince Purcell, 50, of St Clair, said he first started working at Alcoa’s plant in Yennora at the age of 22 just after getting married.
”I’ve had one redundancy here many years ago. My current employment is 21 years,” he said.
”We were notified two weeks ago that this plant was under review. Up until then we were told our grandkids would have jobs here.”
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson said the closure of the Yennora plant was a blow for western Sydney.
”The O’Farrell government should be immediately working on a jobs plan for western Sydney and the rest of NSW that addresses the growing trend of job losses,” Mr Robertson said.
with Brian Robins