The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has been informed that NSW’s last bus manufacturer, Custom Buses, will close today.
161 workers will lose their jobs.
The closure of the Villawood factory follows the NSW Government’s decision to send several large contracts for new buses to overseas and interstate manufacturers.
Most recently, the NSW Government purchased 38 double-decker buses for the new B-line service from Malaysian manufacturer Gemilang.
“The NSW Government could have had these buses made right here in Sydney but instead they sent the work to Malaysia,” said Steve Murphy, Secretary of the AMWU NSW.
“These job losses lay squarely at the feet of the Transport Minister, Andrew Constance,” said AMWU NSW Secretary Steve Murphy.
“Andrew Constance can’t run the rail system, he bungled the naming of a ferry and now he has made an appalling decision to send a bus contract overseas that is costing Australian workers their jobs.”
“He should be looking for a new job today, not skilled workers in Western Sydney.”
“These were decent jobs in a high demand industry, but sending contracts to build our public transport overseas means that factories close and good jobs head overseas,” he said.
“We saw that in Bathurst, we saw it in Newcastle and now we’re seeing it in Western Sydney.”
“We honour the workers of Custom Buses for their skilled craftsmanship and their decades of hard work. They have created machines that we should all be proud of,” he said.
109 workers at the Western Sydney factory were told before the Australia Day long weekend that they would not be returning to work, the final 52 production workers will finish today.
Since 1935 it has built buses for both private and public bus operators and earned a reputation for building durable, quality buses. Many of these workers have been with the company for decades.
The AMWU will work with Custom Bus’s management to ensure that workers receive their full redundancy entitlements.
Media Contact: Joe McKenzie 0407 931 445
FACT SHEET: CUSTOM BUS
Custom Bus is a bus manufacturer based in Villawood in Western Sydney. Until recently it employed 161 workers, down from a peak of over 330 in the late 2000s. It announced in January that it was going into administration, and the union expects it to be liquidated.
The final day of production at the plant will occur on Friday, February 2. While a skeleton crew of 56 staff were attempting to finish a current order, it appears that the company has run out of money and the project will be abandoned.
The workers at Custom are mostly long-term employees, many have worked there for several decades. They included both unskilled workers and trades, mostly vehicle body builders, welders and boilermakers.
Custom has manufactured buses for both public and private bus operators since 1935, however it has primarily built buses for the Sydney public bus network.
The union estimates that 63% of the buses currently in service of the Sydney Transport Authority were built by Custom.
In 2006 it won a contract to build 505 new buses for the NSW State Transit Authority to replace a quarter of the fleet. At the time it was the largest capital investment by any one operator in Australian history.
Both management and unions have blamed the closure on the government’s decision to send major bus contracts to interstate or international manufacturers. Most recently, the 38 double-decker buses for the B-line fleet were assembled in Malaysia by Gemilang.
The State Government announced in most recent budget that it would be buying 170 new buses, having purchased $108 million of buses in 2017-17. However, since these contracts included no local content requirements to ensure that the local industry would benefit from these contracts, local workers have largely missed out.
The closure of Custom mirrors the NSW Government’s 2016 decision to send large train manufacturing contracts overseas. The $2.3 billion intercity fleet and the $1.7 billion expansion of the Waratah fleet are being built by South Korean and Chinese manufacturers respectively, a decision that has devastated the local train manufacturing industry.
In other states, bus manufacturing is considered a growth industry. While other states are seeing investment in electric and even driverless technology, New South Wales is seeing mass redundancies.