Former manufacturing workers have struggled to find stable full-time employment two years after the closure of the automotive industry in Australia.
- The Holden factory closed in 2017, but about 80 per cent of former employees found jobs
- A former worker with 29 years’ experience says he is still unemployed and looking for work
- The State Government has still described the transition as a ‘success’
Around 80 per cent of former workers found new jobs, but that number is obscuring the tough reality for many who have transitioned from steady employment to a more precarious job market.
A year after the closure, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) surveyed members about their employment situation, the findings of which have been supplied to the ABC.
The State Government-funded survey found that 76.4 per cent of members were in employment, but two-thirds of those were in part-time, casual, or contract employment.
Less than five per cent of members were working in a job that had the same or better working conditions.
“We were speaking to members that were getting five hours one week and then 25 the next, and then maybe eight the week after that,” the union’s Scott Batchelor said.
“For us, a successful transition was somebody going into a job that was full-time, even better would’ve been one that paid similar or better wages.”
The findings are similar to a Federal Government commissioned study by consultants Acil Allen.
That survey found 43 per cent of former automotive workers who were in the job market nationally were working full-time a year later.
“The group of people over 45 have struggled to find work the most,” Mr Batchelor said.
He said the AMWU had requested a State Government transition package be extended for a further year to stop workers slipping through the net.
“None of the recommendations we made were taken up,” Mr Batchelor said.
Former Holden worker says he will ‘clean toilets’
Peter Hepburn worked at Adelaide’s Holden factory for 29 years.
Since clocking off for the last time in 2017, he now avoids driving past the Holden site, and said returning to it was like being in “a bad dream”.
“It’s just like losing a part of you, you’ve got to let it go sometimes,” he said.
“You feel it’s going to be there forever and a day and see you out.”
The 61 year old is still unemployed two years on, and said he would be happy to do “anything”.
“I kept applying for jobs, still am to this day … I’ll even clean toilets out, I haven’t got a problem with that,” he said.
“People are inclined to say ‘he’s getting too old’, because I’ve only really got about five or six years ahead of me, and then that’s you finished.
“As time goes on, the less enthusiastic you get about looking for work.”
State Government says new industries would help individuals
The South Australian Government has described the transition as a success.
“A number of them have used the closure of the industry as an opportunity to reassess their lives,” Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said.
“As an employer, if you were taking someone on who had been with the same employer for 10, 20 or 30 years, you might be a bit reluctant to take them on full-time initially.”
He said the unemployment rate among former Holden workers was similar to the broader South Australian unemployment rate.
Mr Pisoni said new industries developing in South Australia would also provide opportunities for manufacturing workers.
“The Federal Government has been very good at helping those industries that were in the automotive industry transition into the defence sector in particular,” he said.
Post was originally on ABC News by By Casey Briggs