The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has launched a new campaign to bring manufacturing back onshore, by calling on the government to support their local producers.
The campaign argues that the federal and state governments have been hurting Aussie manufacturers by sending jobs overseas, “time and time again,” while neglecting investment into skilled local manufacturing workers. They are calling for the post-pandemic rebuild period to be viewed as a unique opportunity to get the industry “back to where it belongs.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed what we’ve always known—a strong local manufacturing industry is essential for the health of our nation,” the union said in its campaign promotion. “It’s manufacturing workers who’ve kept food on our tables and made sure we had PPE during a pandemic. Now they’re being ignored as we head into national economic recovery.”
“We need politicians to step up,” the union said.
AMWU delegates across a range of sectors in South Australia gathered on Tuesday to introduce the campaign into workplaces.
“Supporting Aussie made is urgent and the COVID pandemic has shown us that,” AMWU State Secretary Peter Bauer said. “We need to maximise our investment in making things locally and by employing more Australian workers and apprentices.”
Calling the pandemic a “wake-up call we all needed” Bauer noted that the pandemic showed many Australian companies the weaknesses in their supply chains “in the most dramatic way.”
But he said that despite the difficulties, Australians have remained resilient through the pandemic, with workers and companies working together to keep factories running and Australia functioning.
“When air freight ground to a halt Electrolux closed its factory for four weeks because it couldn’t import the parts needed to manufacture cookers,” Bauer said. “Workers acted quickly, alongside the company, to start making the steel parts in-house.”
This is why the union said the Support Aussie Made campaign backs growth in demand through a range of measures including the establishment of a manufacturing investment fund which the union says will support manufacturing growth in Australia for generations to come.
Meanwhile, last month another union, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) also called on the public and governments to support the local manufacturing industry.
“The more we can manufacture and value-add locally, the better off our economy and communities are,” CFMMEU National manufacturing division Vice-President Brad Coates told the ABC. “I think there was a real danger [in] the way we were heading down before, into a society of consumers and our reliance on countries like China.”
A survey in May found that an overwhelming 93 percent of Australians preferred to buy Australian made products, up from 87 percent after a year of COVID restrictions.
Australian Made Campaign CEO Ben Lazzaro said Australia’s over-reliance on imported products was highlighted during COVID-19.
“This research shows Australians are placing priority on manufacturing self-sufficiency and job creation along with a renewed appetite to address the imbalance between locally made and imported products to ensure Australia’s long-term prosperity,” Lazzaro said.
AAP contributed to this article.