The Australian Workers’ Union has called for Federal intervention to save hundreds of jobs it says are now under threat at AstraZeneca’s Sydney facility.
Planned cuts will see the company’s North Ryde manufacturing staff numbers halved from 480 to 240 by November 8, with 110 operators/warehouse/floor employees and 130 staff positions made redundant, according to the AWU.
AWU National Secretary Dan Walton says the job losses will be a huge blow, not only for Sydney manufacturing but also Australia’s sovereign capability.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is the only vaccine being produced in Australia, so the importance of keeping pharmaceutical production skills here has never been clearer,” he said in a statement.
‘We are losing critical skills and employment’
“Frankly it’s crazy to see a situation in which AstraZeneca is making 100 skilled, experienced workers redundant.
“We will lose critical skills and employment from Sydney and Australia in what is a huge lost opportunity for Australia’s future.
“If the Morrison Government doesn’t step in here, it will send a powerful signal about how much Australia values this sovereign capacity,” Walton said.
The AWU believes AstraZeneca has generally been a good employer, with the main reason for the cuts being that China has cancelled its contract for respules (small plastic containers full of liquid used in nebulisers to treat asthma). It is unclear what motivated the Chinese buyer’s decision.
A statement released by the union quotes a worker at the North Ryde plant, Peter Kelly, as saying the operators who will be made redundant have very specialised skills in pharmaceutical manufacture.
Australia must retain pharmaceuticals capacity
The only option they will have now to use their skills within AstraZeneca will be to move overseas, creating a skills exodus in this critical field, Kelly said.
“Next time a pandemic, or some other major health crisis, hits we may not be able to rely on intentional supply lines. Australia needs to retain the capacity to make pharmaceuticals here. We can’t afford to be shedding these jobs and these skills in this moment.”
The AWU said it is urging the Government to ensure the Sydney facility stays operational and productive, perhaps by being upgraded or altered to manufacture vaccines.
“The Government needs to see what’s required to keep these jobs and make sure Australia doesn’t lose this capacity,” Walton warned.