ACTU says ‘she’ll be right’ on jobs and ETS

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ACTU says ‘she’ll be right’ on jobs and ETS

The Australian Workers Union is worried about the loss of aluminium industry jobs in Tasmania because of the coming emissions trading scheme (ETS), but ACTU president Sharan Burrow is confident there won’t be ‘huge’ job losses.

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The Australian Workers Union is worried about the loss of aluminium industry jobs in Tasmania because of the coming emissions trading scheme (ETS), but ACTU president Sharan Burrow is confident there won’t be ‘huge’ job losses.

The union believes jobs at the Comalco smelter in George Town could be in danger if the Federal Government doesn't protect them under an emissions trading scheme.

The union believes jobs at the Comalco smelter in George Town could be under threat if the Federal Government doesn't protect them under an emissions trading scheme.

High energy users

Robert Flanagan, the lead organiser from the AWU, says aluminium smelters are high energy users, and under a trading scheme companies may cut back jobs to balance costs.

‘Ultimately the emissions trading scheme has the potential to impact on the competitive position of Australia's aluminium industry,’ he said.

‘So it is how that scheme is structured which will determine the impact of that on a national level, and on our operations at George Town.’

No huge job losses

However, Burrow is confident a properly constructed ETS won't result in huge job losses and could see some industries expand.

The ACTU endorsed the need for a trading scheme, with some conditions, when its executive meet in Canberra this week.

The Government's options paper on emissions trading, also called a Green Paper, was released yesterday.

Burrow said the union movement supports the Government acting on climate change.

Must act

‘If we don't back a Government that's willing to take the plunge and act on behalf of our kids and our grandkids then we will rue the day,' she told ABC radio.

The ACTU argues jobs won't be lost if emissions trading is accompanied by action to make workplaces greener.

‘I don't know that we will see huge losses of jobs,' Burrow said.

‘On the contrary, there's a real chance that if we can be ahead of the market internationally, if we can retro-fit and restructure our plants, look at the redesign of work, then we may very well expand some of those industries.'

Compensate families

However, the ACTU’s support is conditional on low-income families being fully compensated for increased energy costs, which is dealt with in the Green Paper.

Burrow said an ETS could cost families ‘in the order of $600 or $700 a year'.

‘There are certainly vulnerable families that deserve compensation such that they won't be worse off,' she said.

But, when it comes to middle-income families, the ACTU will argue for compensation and bargain for wage outcomes ‘where we need to'.

Absorb costs

Burrow says there are ‘working Australians who will be willing and able to actually do their bit by absorbing small cost increases'.

The ACTU executive also supports vulnerable industries being assisted during the transition period, and transport and forestry being included in the trading scheme.

Australia’s aluminium industry is at the forefront of the trade-exposed, emissions-intensive category of businesses that are likely to receive free permits under the Government's carbon reduction scheme, which was announced yesterday.


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