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The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) has strongly condemned the Federal Government for slashing $7 million available for redundant workers in the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry to secure alternative employment. The decision, made as part of the government’s Mid Year Economic Statement announced today, almost halves the financial assistance allocated under the TCF Structural Adjustment Program over the next 3 years, with the first cut of $2.3 projected to hit in 2012/13.
According to the mid year budget papers, the TCF SAP Program, has been gutted ‘to partially offset the cost of providing assistance to Australian Paper’s Maryvale Pulp and Paper Mill’ to establish a de-inked pulp facility. The funding for the Mill ($9.5m over 3 years) was heralded by Minister Combet in a media release on 10 October 2012, but failed to reveal where the bulk of money would be coming from.
Ms Michele O’Neil, TCFUA National Secretary said ‘This is a shocking, ill thought decision. It is a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Textile and clothing workers are some of the most vulnerable workers in Australia, who have borne the brunt of decades long economic restructuring and dislocation. We support the need to assist struggling industries and their local communities, but are appalled at this budgetary sleight of hand which essentially trades off one group of low paid workers against another.’
A recent report produced for the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce identified that DEEWR projected a 25% reduction of jobs in the TCF industry (as part of the manufacturing sector) over the next 5 years. It is commonly acknowledged that these workers will face multiple barriers (due to, for example their age, background and skill sets) in finding new employment either in the TCF industry or in alternative occupations.
Ms O’Neil explained that the TCF SAP program has been critical in providing targeted help to TCF workers in finding alternative work in a very tough manufacturing environment. Many retrenched TCF workers have successfully accessed TCF SAP support and assistance to retrain and obtain employment. Without the funding provided under TCF SAP and the support and assistance of the TCFUA, many TCF retrenched workers would remain unemployed over the long term, which has a significant effect on the individual workers, their communities and the Australian economy.
Ms O’Neil added, ‘It is simply not acceptable that unemployed TCF workers, who lose their jobs and livelihoods through no fault of their own, become economic collateral damage in the pursuit of balancing the budget. I urge the government to immediately reverse this ill considered decision and reinstate current levels of funding to the program.’
For further information and comment please contact the TCFUA National Secretary, Michele O’Neil on 0419 338 853.
 Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce; Report of the Non –Government Members (Aug 2012); p 22