Life a year after BlueScope job cuts

Vintage car enthusiast Lance Jenkins, 54, is still looking for work after taking redundancy from BlueScope Steel last year. Picture: GREG TOTMANA year has passed since BlueScope Steel delivered the news that shook the Illawarra to its roots.

A company in crisis, the struggling Port Kembla steelmaker announced that it would quit the export market, slash production and axe 1000 jobs in a blow that many employees suspected was coming.

Most took it in their stride, but fallout from that decision is still being felt across the region today.

MERCURY SAYS: The pain of BlueScope continues

About half of the 800 redundant Port Kembla steelworkers are estimated to have retired with generous payouts.

Many found work, some of them re-training or leaving the area.

Others are still drifting, struggling to find work in a region where jobs are scarce.

The 2011 bloodletting wasn’t limited to the steelworks. Contractors were also forced to shed jobs in response, while the manufacturing crisis continued to take its toll on the region’s industrial base.

For BlueScope, tough economic conditions at home have made the road to recovery an extremely difficult one.

The company this week posted its second consecutive $1 billion annual net loss.

But after a financial year that chief executive officer Paul O’Malley described as “transforming”, the global company is confident that it has rebuilt the foundations for its Australian businesses to succeed.

For former steelworkers struggling to land a job, assistance is still available.

Illawarra local employment coordinator Jane Robinson, a contractor for the Department of Eduction, Employment and Workplace Relations, plays a key role helping retrenched workers find jobs.

She said of the 444 people who had registered with job services providers, 262 had found work with their help.

“Now that’s not the entire picture because a lot of others have just obtained their own job without any help from anyone, or they may have got a job at the jobs market that we put on in September last year,” Ms Robinson said.

She agreed the Illawarra was “not the easiest place” to be find work and that now was a good time to look elsewhere.

Of the workers who had sought support, 57 had left the region.

Upcoming events for job seekers included a course for those workers who had not applied for jobs in decades and an expo to be held in Shellharbour on September 26.

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