Union backs locally made

POLITICIANS and the public will be reminded of the importance of manufacturing over the coming weeks as the union representing the beleaguered sector launches a campaign to save the industry.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Paul Bastian today kicks off the Making Our Future campaign, in which the union calls for all levels of government to improve procurement policies.

Mr Bastian told The Age that in 2004 Australian cars accounted for two-thirds of all government fleets, but had dropped to one third last year. He said returning to 2004 levels would mean an extra 20,000 Australian cars would be made.

''We think governments at all levels should be taking the lead in the buy Australian campaign,'' he said. ''We also should be getting more out of the resources sector.''

The campaign will focus on the fact 1 million people are employed in the industry. Mr Bastian said since the global financial crisis 125,000 jobs had been lost, with the government's manufacturing taskforce estimating at least another 85,000 will go by 2017 if steps are not taken.

The campaign will also highlight that 25 per cent of exports are from the sector, as well accounting for a quarter of all research and development.

Mr Bastian said there must be more accountability and transparency in the resource industry in terms of Australian products, particularly steel.

He called for the government to do more to ensure there was a level playing field with other countries.

While acknowledging there needed to be long-term structural change, Mr Bastian said the short-term future could be strengthened by bringing forward infrastructure projects.

The campaign comes as Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney warned that the increase of contract work was a threat to mine safety because a lasting culture of safety cannot be fostered.

Speaking at the annual United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day at Cessnock, Ms Kearney said a constantly changing workforce meant safety systems were not always implemented, with casual and contract workers less likely to speak up, as they feared the sack. ''A lasting safety culture cannot be created with a mobile, temporary workforce,'' she said.

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