Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has all but ruled out setting up a federal fund to cushion the blow for the 544 Electrolux workers facing redundancy at the Orange plant, instead referring them to agencies like Centrelink for assistance.
In 2006, on the same day Electrolux announced the closure of two of its Adelaide plants and the loss of 500 jobs, Mr Macfarlane as industry minister and then-prime minister John Howard committed $25 million towards a development fund for the South Australian manufacturing industry.
The joint state and federal $35 million fund was designed to help the blue collar workers find new jobs.
But the workers in Orange appear unlikely to receive the same assistance, with Mr Macfarlane’s office distancing the minister from the winding down of the plant.
“The management of the changes at the Electrolux factory is a matter for the company, not the federal government,” a spokeswoman said.
Instead, like all workers impacted by redundancies, the Electrolux employees will be eligible for employment and income support through federal government agencies such as Job Services Australia, Centrelink and the Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program, depending on their personal circumstances, the spokeswoman said.
Member for Calare John Cobb is also remaining tight-lipped over assistance for the workers.
He was unable to attend a meeting to discuss the plant’s wind-down and retraining prospects for the workers with member for Orange Andrew Gee, Electrolux management and Orange City Council general manager Garry Styles last Wednesday, due to other commitments, his spokeswoman said.
But she said Mr Cobb had updated Mr Gee on the federal government’s position prior to the meeting.
Mr Cobb is still waiting for a response from Mr Macfarlane after writing to him about the plant in early November.
The minister’s spokeswoman said Mr Macfarlane had spoken with Electrolux’s president and CEO Keith McLoughlin about the company’s decision to close the Orange plant and its plans for future investment in Australia.
She said Mr Macfarlane may meet Mr McLoughlin in person early next year for further discussions.