Melbourne rally backs Portland's manufacturing industry

SUPPORTERS of Portland’s manufacturing industry will take to the streets of Melbourne next month in an attempt to persuade wind farm developers to use locally made turbine towers. 

Around a hundred people are expected to step off buses in the centre of Melbourne on February 13 to push their case for local manufacturing. 

The call to arms follows threats to shed jobs by Portland’s Keppel Prince wind turbine division if companies behind wind farms continue to ship in overseas towers and blades. 

Late last year Keppel Prince lost a key contract to build 64 towers for the Mount Mercer wind farm near Ballarat after developer REpower awarded the contract to a South Korean company. 

The planned picket line has been spearheaded by a community group called Save Local Jobs and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), which have warned that the industry could be wiped out if nothing is done to stop imported towers. 

Rumours of layoffs are rife at Keppel Prince, which is Portland’s second largest employer behind the aluminium smelter. 

AMWU south-west organiser Mark Solly said workers and union members wanted certainty about their future. 

“People are a bit nervous and there are a lot of rumours floating around, which is not good for morale,” Mr Solly said.  With a federal election approaching this year, the union leader said the campaign was at a critical stage. 

“We’re also looking at approaching various shires to see if they can put local content into their permit applications,” he said. 

As well as planned demonstrations, Mr Solly said campaigners hoped to garner political support. “It just seems to be on no one’s radar,” he said. 

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