Weld Australia has warned that the jobs of 150 workers in regional south-west Victoria are under threat following the award of the wind farm contract for the 218 megawatt $360 million Ryan Corner wind farm to an overseas company.
Danish company Vestas has sent the contract for the manufacture of 52 wind towers offshore. This is despite the fact that Keppel Prince Engineering – the only manufacturer of wind turbines on mainland Australia – is located just 70 kilometres away from the project site.
As a result, Keppel Prince will likely be forced to make 150 workers redundant. In a regional town with a population of just 10,000 people, Weld Australia notes that the economic fall-out will be severe.
The Australian Workers Union (AWU) is also ‘appalled’ at the decision to offshore this major project. Ben Davis, Victorian Branch Secretary, AWU, said: “The decision by Vestas to source steel for the wind farm project overseas rather than locally is a disgrace. The Federal Government, as the ultimate client, should hang their head in shame.”
According to Geoff Crittenden, Chief Executive Officer of Weld Australia, the contract for the Ryan Corner wind farm comprises some 15,000 tonnes of steel.
“It is simply galling that a contract of this size has been sent offshore,” Mr Crittenden said.
“Local manufacturers like Keppel Prince cannot win jobs on their doorstep when multi-national companies like Vestas place a premium on price over and above quality and safety.”
“Nearly all locally manufactured steel used in Australian major projects is certified by the Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing and Structural Steels (ACRS). Local fabricators comply to internationally recognised Australian Standards and are certified by the relevant Australian authority. In this way, Government and Non-Government clients can ensure the quality and safety of projects. Imported steelwork, which does not meet these requirements, is often of inferior quality and may not meet the Australian safety requirements,” he advised.
“Weld Australia has been calling on the Federal Government for the last five years to mandate that all steelwork in Australia – both local and imported – is manufactured and erected according to Australian Standards. The Federal Government must act now to save jobs in regional areas and ensure public safety,” said Crittenden.
“The importance of our local manufacturing industry and the development of robust renewable energy sources cannot be underestimated when it comes to Australia’s post-COVID recovery. The Federal Government has asserted that job creation is vital to our economic recovery. And yet, it seems unwilling to protect existing jobs.”
Davis agreed. “The transition to renewal energy sources relies on social licence. Decisions like this jeopardise local jobs and the communities willingness to tolerate the disruption that these projects involve. And rightly so,” said Davis.
“Australia’s jobs-driven COVID-19 recovery must be manufacturing led. Overseas, investment in advanced manufacturing is prioritised by governments. Local industry and populations support manufacturing by buying locally-made goods. As a result, manufacturing employs millions of people in overseas markets, contributing billions of dollars to their economies. Now is the time to make manufacturing a national priority. Government, at all levels, must support and invest in the manufacturing sector to aid its growth. Mandating compliance to Australian Standards is the perfect first step,” Crittenden added.