Treated with contempt: government response angers worried workers

ELECTROLUX workers say the federal government has treated them with contempt by failing to offer financial assistance for redundant workers in the central west, while Holden workers facing redundancy will be helped with a $100 million fund.

The Central Western Daily spoke to five long-time Electrolux workers, Phil Alexander, Ian Hughes, Ian Barrett, Marc Taylor and Paul Glaville who are all uncertain what the future holds when the plant closes its doors in 2016.

But one thing they know for sure, leaving Orange to find work would be the last resort.

Mr Alexander, 56, works as a storeman forklift driver and has been at the plant for 40 years.

He said the speed in which federal assistance was announced for Holden workers, and those made redundant by other manufacturers, made him feel the government thought Electrolux workers were less important.

“It’s been very disappointing. These are people’s lives we’re dealing with and it feels like the government is on the fence twiddling their thumbs,” he said.

“The government says it’s the company’s responsibility. If that’s the case why did the government come on board for other industries?

He was especially angered when Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane referred workers to employment agencies such as Centrelink.

“If that’s the best they can offer we’re doomed,” he said.

“It hasn’t given me much confidence, I don’t believe they’re really doing their job.”

Fellow forklift driver, Ian Hughes, 57, has worked at the plant for 30 years.

He shared Mr Alexander’s sentiments.

“I don’t think [the government] gives a rat’s arse about 500 people in the country,” he said.

“Call me cynical but I don’t have a lot of faith in Labor or Liberal governments, they only care about metro areas.”

Mr Alexander warned against a knee-jerk reaction but said the “little fish”, member for Calare John Cobb and member for Orange Andrew Gee, should do more to be the voice of the region.

Mr Hughes agreed and said National Party politicians had little power in the Coalition to represent the interests of regional areas.

“I’m a bit dirty on the state government too,” he said.

“It’s the blue curtains, the city stops at Lithgow or Katoomba, they’re not interested in looking over the mountains.”

Mr Taylor, 59, works as a leading hand and has been at the plant for 26 years.

He said Mr Cobb and his colleagues had let Orange down and the local member was toeing the party line.

Research and design technician Mr Barrett, 55, has worked for Electrolux for 28 years.

He said Mr Macfarlane’s response was a get out of jail answer as the whole country’s manufacturing industry went downhill.

“It’s scary for our kids, what are they going to do?,” he said.

Mr Glaville, 57, has worked on the factory lines for 40 years.

His feelings about the federal government’s response were more succinct.

“What the government has done stinks,” he said.

clare.colley@

fairfaxmedia.com.au

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