Govt purchasing to protect jobs in textiles & clothing industries

June 04, 2009 - Australia

Workers will rally outside a soon-to-be-closed uniform and clothing factory to call for state and federal governments to use their purchasing power to protect local jobs and safeguard Australian industry.

The protest at Pacific Brands Can’t Tear ‘Em factory in Brisbane’s West End will call on government agencies to buy Australian-made uniforms for all police, nurses, defence force personnel and other public sector workers. Factory workers will be joined by representatives of unions from around Australia attending the ACTU Congress.

Unions are proposing a set of National Interest Expenditure Principles to guide government spending and investment so that it maximises jobs and benefits Australian industries.

“Federal and state governments should do more to protect Australian jobs through procurement policies that give a fair go to domestic industries,” said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

“This is not a call for a new wave of protectionism,” Ms Burrow said. “This is about a fair go for Australian jobs and industries.

“We want Australia to have world-beating industries and businesses capable of competing on a global stage. But to do so, they need support at home so they can build the critical mass to become significant exporters.

“A fair go for Australian industry and jobs does not contravene our trade obligations. It merely reflects what countries around the world are doing to ensure their own domestic industries remain strong.”

In a concrete example of how the Government could make a difference, 65 jobs will be lost next month when the Pacific Brands factory in Brisbane shuts its doors.

The Can’t Tear ‘Em factory produces uniforms for Defence, police, firefighters and rail workers, among other federal and state government employees. It will close in July as part of Pacific Brands’ action to end manufacturing in Australia and axe 1850 jobs.

Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union National Secretary Michele O’Neil said governments should insist that all clothing items worn by their employees are made at home.

“We’re calling on the federal and state governments to change their procurement policies and support Australian jobs,” Ms O’Neil said.

“This is a simple, clear and direct action that governments could take immediately which would save thousands of Australian jobs in the textiles and clothing industries.”