Going going gone

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram Holden will stop manufacturing in Australia in 2017 with Australia set to lose almost 3,000 jobs. Victorian premier Dr Denis Napthine said the government has been advised that Holden is discontinuing in 2017, and it’s an “irreversible decision”. The high Australian dollar, high cost of production and small, fragmented market was to blame. The decision will see 2,900 people will lose their jobs – 1,600 from the manufacturing plant in South Australia and 1,300 in Victoria. The announcement means the end of 65 years of car building in Australia for General Motors Holden, an era that has significant ties with our Greek Australian community, as for many first generation migrants, General Motors Holden was the place where many found their first jobs, giving them a way to support their family and the financial independence they needed to prosper in their adopted nation. Talking to Neos Kosmos the day following the announcement, Mike Nicolaides, national secretary of the Technical Supervisory and Administrative Division, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, says that everyone involved with the AMWU is “shell-shocked”. “It’s a body blow for [our members] because they’ve lost their future and the ability to support their families,” Mr Nicolaides says. The workers who face unemployment in four years have three viable options, says Mr Nicolaides, who looks at the outcome from the Mitsubishi closure some years ago. He said one third of the workers took the opportunity to retire because they believed they wouldn’t find other work; one third found jobs that were of a similar status and the other third found casual employment on lower wages and in worse conditions. “A number of people in 2017 may be in their mid to late 50s and they may take the opportunity to retire, some will find jobs but there are going to be a large number of people who will struggle,” he says. The skill level of each employee, their age and their class of employment will determine their future employment options, but Mr Nicolaides warns that their future looks quite “bleak”, especially for the South Australian employees. “Different classes of employees will have better or worse prospects depending upon the skills they hold,” he says. “I would think in Elizabeth (South Australia) – their prospects are pretty bleak,” he says. This is because they are production workers in Elizabeth, unlike Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne which has design workers and other skilled employees who may have better prospects of gaining employment, but their future is “still bleak and uncertain”. General Motors Holden (GMH) was a saving grace for many early Greeks who migrated to Australia and relied on factory jobs for employment. One former employee, George Zangalis, worked at Fisherman’s Bend for a year in 1950. He said a large portion of the employees were of Greek background. Mr Zangalis went on to work as a union representative and spoke with many Greek employees who were instrumental in gaining better working conditions at GMH. At the time of migration, he says there was a great demand for workers at GMH. “[The employers] wouldn’t even ask if you had any skills – all they wanted to make sure of was that you were a healthy person, young, and we were trained on the job,” says Mr Zangalis. “Many of us came from Greece, a great majority from the countryside, some from the cities, but none of us had factory experience – working in industries was a new experience altogether.” He says the Greek employees made up most of the workers in this era, and adds they were “the most militant and they were in the forefront of all the struggles for better conditions basically and better wages”. The Greek community felt the gravity of this decision, and its impact on the psyche was echoed through comments made on the Neos Kosmos Facebook page following the announcement. Readers used the social media site as a forum to voice their concern and talk about their fathers’ experiences of working at GMH. One went as far as to say that if their father knew about the closure he would “be turning over in his grave” remembering a time when the migrants gave blood, sweat and tears to their line of work. The consequences of this decision have far-reaching impacts not only on employees of Holden, but also employees of companies that supply car components to Holden. That will ultimately impact Australia’s economy. Manufacturing is the key industry and it’s a tremendous blow against the workers themselves, their families, but also for future workers, younger people looking for jobs in making things,” says Mr Zangalis. “If the country doesn’t make things, it becomes a beggar – if we don’t manufacture we need to purchase other people’s goods and they dictate the terms. “Like Greece, for instance, the answer for Greeks is not any more loans, but how much we can produce, will Greece become a producer or a perpetual consumer of other people’s products?” Mr Nicolaides adds that this move will put undue pressure on Toyota. “With Holden going, those auto component suppliers might not have the volume in their work to be able to survive, which means that Toyota might have to source some of their components off-shore. It might not be a viable option for them either so this is going to cascade and put pressure on Toyota,” he says. He adds that the AMWU is unsure of what the government thinks of the manufacturing industry, what their framework is about the future of the Australian economy. “Looking at it from the outside it seems [the federal government] are much more interested in mining and agriculture and much less interested in manufacturing,” says Mr Nicolaides. “Manufacturing has provided hundreds of thousands of jobs for generations including to migrants, and the families of migrants – many of them are readers of Neos Kosmos. They are just not giving any thought that we can see to the future of the economy. A vehicle manufacturing sector is the essence of most modern manufacturing economies. “They’ve let down thousands of workers, they don’t seem to have a clear policy – they need to get their act into gear,” he says. “It’s not evident to us what they see as the future of the Australian economy – they have no vision.”last_img

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