15/04/2009 - 22:00

Government goes in to bat for sacked workers

15/04/2009 - 22:00


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THE state government has ramped up initiatives to soften the impact of job cuts in regional areas as a result of the global economic meltdown.

THE state government has ramped up initiatives to soften the impact of job cuts in regional areas as a result of the global economic meltdown.

Small business owners left in the wake of BHP Billiton's nickel mine closure in Ravensthorpe have been offered an olive branch through the latest stage of the government's $5 million assistance package.

Small Business Development Corporation managing director Stephen Moir is encouraging small businesses affected by the loss of 1,800 jobs in Ravensthorpe to apply for financial assistance to cover the cost of accounting, legal and financial planning services.

"Owners and operators of small businesses located in the Shire of Ravensthorpe are eligible to apply for the funding, which will help them identify opportunities for the future of their business," he said.

BHP Billiton has already cut 3,400 jobs in Australia in reaction to the deteriorating economy, with most job losses occurring in WA.

Premier Colin Barnett has guaranteed essential state government services in Ravensthorpe will operate for at least six months, with any planned service cuts after that subject to cabinet approval.

The $5 million package is designed to offset the decline in population and revenues as a direct result of the nickel mine's closure and to enable local services to remain operating.

The move comes on the back of a $650 million federal government Jobs Fund, which will deploy priority area employment coordinators in six identified regions of need across Australia, including the South West.

The employment coordinators' roles include ensuring a rapid response to helping workers made redundant, coordinating and generating new job opportunities, and brokering agreements between the federal, state and local governments.

The WA government is also working with abattoirs to find jobs for more than 150 employees sacked by the state's largest beef processor, Harvey Beef.

Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman last month announced a Harvey telecentre would be established as a coordination point for the retrenched workers requiring assistance.

A resource officer offering financial advice is stationed at the centre, which is working with the SBDC, Centrelink, South West Regional College of Tafe and Jobs South West Community Services.

However, Labor mines spokesman Jon Ford said that, by dealing with the issues after mines and operations had closed, the government was being reactive and not proactive.

About 330 jobs were axed when the world's largest nickel producer, Russia's Norilsk Nickel, suspended its Lake Johnston and Black Swan nickel operations in WA.

The move followed Norilsk's decision late last year to place two projects on care and maintenance, its Cawse and Waterloo operations in WA.

Mr Ford said the state government needed to do more to reassure 65 workers of Collie-based timber company, Pinetec, after the company went into receivership following the Varanus Island gas explosion last June.


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