By Unions NSW Assistant Secretary Emma Maiden
Graeme is 54 years old. In the last 15 years, he has been made redundant five times, most recently via email and text message by Hutchison at Port Botany. His story is not uncommon: secure quality jobs in Australia are fast disappearing.
“The first time I went through the redundancy process was in the year 2000 and I was working at the Port Kembla Coal Terminal. There was a downturn in the coal industry in the Illawarra region and jobs had to go. I was 39 years old at the time and I thought with the qualifications and experience I had I would be able to gain employment in a more secure position. Little did I know how many jobs I had ahead of me.
“The second time I was made redundant was in 2007 after working for Brambles Industrial Services at the Port Kembla Steelworks for 3 years. At the time Brambles had a 15 year contract with BlueScope Steel to handle the storage and wrapping of its steel coils. Bluescope management decided to withdraw from the export and domestic markets of tinplate rolled coil due to a drop in revenue in this division.
“I was disappointed as I took the job believing I was guaranteed the 15 year term of the contract between Brambles and Bluescope steel. But I knew I could find more work because I had done it before.
“My next position was with Hatch Engineering working within the Steelworks on construction projects, but in 2009 I was made redundant due to the global downturn and a reduction in the construction industry.
“That was annoying. I only had two years in that job before it fell away from under me. I moved on to Enterprise Improvement Solutions but that ended in 2013 due to the end of the mining boom.”
Graeme’s story is all too common. Talk to any of Graeme’s co-workers and they describe him as hard-working and affable. He is universally liked and respected. A man who believes that security comes only with hard work.
This is not a worker being targeted because of a poor work ethic. This is the story of our so-called modern economy: so modern it treats workers as expendable widgets.
Now Graeme is one of the Hutchison 97. Sacked at midnight by text message and email due to insufficient volume brought about by Hutchison sub-leasing contract work to competitors.
“I’m a realist”, says Graeme as he sits at the Community Assembly that has been running 24 hours a day since the sackings at Hutchison.
“I know there is no such thing as a job for life these days. We have all become, in effect, casuals with no long term security of employment. I know the economy is changing and certain industries will have hard times.
“But Hutchison kind of smarts. I’m a human being with bills and commitments. I deserve better than a text message at midnight. I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”