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Historic manufacturing downturn in April: printing sector amongst worst hit 

“Industry is facing a downturn of historic proportions, forward orders have collapsed, and yet the Federal Government won’t commit to spending our taxpayer money on buying Australian made to support Australian workers and businesses,” says Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) national secretary Paul Bastian. The union has joined the Print & Visual Communications Association (PVCA) In a campaign to pressure governments to buy Australian-made products. 

AiGroup PMI April 2020

                       Ai Group Performance of Manufacturing Index - April 2020



 "A huge volume of work that just isn’t
          happening at the moment":
  Lorraine Cassin, national print division
                secretary, AMWU


 “The collapse of the events, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors are all having a big effect on the Australian printing industry,” Lorraine Cassin, national print division secretary AMWU, told WFOL. “Local printers who would usually have contracts to print everything from promotional materials for events to catalogues for Woolworths and Dan Murphy’s are seeing those contracts disappear. There’s a huge volume of work that just isn’t happening at the moment because of COVID-19, and that’s a big problem for print companies and the workers that they employ. 

“With the PVCA, we have been campaigning for governments to step up and support local printers by sourcing their print contracts locally, rather than sending those contracts overseas. 

“The best way governments of all levels can support the Australian print industry is by spending Australian taxpayer money on Australian businesses. It’s disgraceful that in the current climate when our industry is facing such difficult economic conditions that our government is spending money offshore when it could be spent here supporting local businesses and local jobs.”

The Australian Industry (Ai) Group’s Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index (Australian PMI) dropped by 17.9 points to 35.8 points in April. “This indicates that Australian manufacturing contracted at its worst pace since April 2009,” said Ai. "Manufacturers cited a range of COVID-19 issues in April, with the most prevalent including: no new sales due to shutdowns; major customers cancelling orders; supply chain problems with inter-state freight movements, and delays; and increased prices for raw materials.”

On a brighter note, The Australian Financial Review reported yesterday that Increased economic optimism, higher commodity prices and rebounding equity markets saw the Australian dollar reach a three-month high on Wednesday, “fully recovering from its COVID-19 induced slump, as the global economy finds its feet again.”

Bastion said 12% of people employed in Australian manufacturing lost their jobs between March and April, and the steepest job declines were in the metal, wood, textile and leather, printing and furniture manufacturing sectors.

'We have seen a ramp up in some specific industries and some retooling, but overall we're still seeing that collapse in forward orders for manufacturing. The government must bring forward shovel-ready infrastructure projects that maximise local content and use their procurement power to support Australian jobs. There is an urgent need to fill up our factories with work immediately. Direct government investment in nation building infrastructure with maximum local content is the best way to keep Australian businesses afloat and workers in a job.”

In a Press Club address last week, Minister for Industry Karen Andrews encouraged Australian businesses and state and local governments to buy Australian made, but refused to commit the Federal Government to doing the same.

“It’s time for the Federal Government to step up and lead by example,” Bastian said. “The Federal Government can and should use the millions of dollars they spend on procurement each year to support Australian workers and Australian businesses instead of sending our taxpayer money offshore."

More than 4,700 people have signed a PVCA/AMWU industry petition calling on federal, state and local government agencies to stop buying printed matter in China. “At this time of disruption to our economy…it seems incongruous for government to be spending tax dollars overseas on print that is readily available in Australia,” said PVCA CEO Andrew Macaulay.

Sign the petition here.