Workers will be laid off by Portland engineering firm, Keppel Prince, because orders for wind farm towers have dried up until next year.
The company announced yesterday it had called for voluntary redundancies among its 450 employees, but did not indicate how many positions would be cut.
It has just finished the job for 140 towers at the giant Macarthur wind farm and is starting on a smaller order for the 13-tower Mortons Lane project near Caramut.
However, that work will cease in May leaving the company without advance contracts.
The opposition has blamed new wind farm planning guidelines for creating industry uncertainty.
Although five new wind farm projects were recently given development plan approval by the state government Keppel Prince does not expect new orders to flow until late this year.
Company general manager Steve Garner said a full workforce could not be maintained during the downturn.
“It’s unfortunate that projects have been delayed,” he said.
“I’ve had to make the big call. It’s been a difficult decision.
“We’ll re-assess the situation next week after the initial response to our call for redundancies.
“The rest of our operation is doing well and there are other long-term contracts in engineering and maintenance.”
Keppel Prince is Portland’s second largest employer behind the aluminium smelter which has 600 employees.
The smelter’s recent cost-cutting has also affected the volume of its work with Keppel Prince. Plans for a $10 million upgrade of the engineering factory are on hold.
Mr Garner is confident the company will win a large percentage of new wind tower contracts in the next few years under new federal legislation for renewable energy targets.
It started work in the wind sector 10 years ago with the Yambuk project and is associated with 20 wind farms in Australia.
Keppel Prince and its other mainland competitor based in Adelaide can each build up to 200 towers a year.
Opposition spokesperson on energy, Lily D’Ambrosio, blamed the downturn in contracts on state government policy.
“This is disappointing for Portland and district,” she said. “I would hope it causes Minister O’Brien to reconsider his government’s policy.
“The Baillieu government needs to admit it got it wrong.”
Meanwhile, figures released yesterday from The Westpac-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Survey of Industrial Trends indicated the Australian manufacturing industry shrunk for the fourth consecutive quarter.
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