AMWU members have continued their campaign for the development of a national manufacturing plan this week with meetings in the food processing heartland of the Murray-Goulburn.
Paul Bastian, AMWU National Secretary, has toured the factories of Fonterra and Simplot in Echuca northern Victoria on Friday, to get a first hand experience from members on the challenges facing local manufacturers and the importance of food processing to the fabric of local communities.
“There are around 200,000 food processing jobs in Australia, with half of those in the regions. This is why we need the federal government to establish a national manufacturing plan, it is enormously important to regional Australia”, said Mr Bastian.
Weak food labelling laws, cheap food imports and increased cost pressures from the supermarkets have all been cited as key factors negatively affecting food processing.
“We need a plan that can address investment in transport infrastructure, skills and research that can boost productivity. The idea of a food innovation hub in major regional centres like Echuca, is a perfect example of making our industry more competitive,“ said Mr Bastian.
AMWU delegate Allan “Toey” Pearce of Simplot said workers were concerned about the long-term future of the sector.
“It’s not only us now, we’re fighting for our kids and the next generations of this area. This impacts so many people – suppliers, truck drivers, the shopkeepers and the farming communities,” said Mr Pearce, a 33-year veteran at the factory.
Delegate from Fonterra, Steve Welsh believes Echuca was fortunate to also be a Murray River tourism hub, however said workers were mindful that manufacturing was crucial to local industry.
“Manufacturing is the base support for the community here, it’s the cake while tourism is the cream on top. These plants have a terrific flow-on effect, even socially through the local footy clubs, netball clubs where people know each other from work. The food industries help keep this town alive in so many ways,” he said.
For more information about the AMWU’s campaign to secure jobs through a National Manufacturing Plan, please visit www.makingourfuture.com.au