Managing director Kirby Adams said the job losses will represent about three per cent of the company’s global workforce.
Mr Adams said he was not sure when the Port Kembla mill will close, but when it does 250 out of 350 employees will lose their jobs.
The cold pickle and cold rolling divisions at the Port Kembla steelworks will remain open, employing about 100 people.
The job losses include 250 management and staff positions, from across all operations in and 90 jobs in Taiwan, as the company will also shut down, within the next few months, its manufacturing operations there.
Management said it was undertaking the cost cutting program ahead of higher iron ore pricing coming into effect on July 1. “BlueScope Steel is making tough decisions for volatile times,” Mr Adams said.
“We are acting swiftly in response to the massive price hike in raw material costs – another 19 per cent for iron ore following last year’s 71 per cent price rise – and the dramatically reduced demand for Australian tinplate,” he added.
“We can no longer carry loss-making businesses.” Mr Adams says the tinplate business had lost A$60 million in the past two years and the size of its the available market had reduced dramatically in the past 12 months.
BlueScope says the market had changed due to a number of factors, including more imports of tin cans, Australian food companies filling cans overseas and using offshore cans, and large retail grocers replacing Australian brands with their own merchandise that also used cans made offshore.
“We are also seeing a shift where consumers are purchasing more fresh foods at the expense of canned foods.” Brian Kruger, president of BlueScope’s Australian Manufacturing Markets business said.
The federal government has responded quickly announcing an assistance package to help the redundant Port Kembla workers. Treasurer Peter Costello said he was sorry to hear about the job losses, but that the government will help the families recover.
“Each worker will have access to an individual consultant who will provide a range of specialised advice and support to help secure alternative employment,” he said.
Mr Costello said the package also includes measures to attract new investment to Port Kembla. Sacked workers will also receive an extra $450 on top of the $900 allocated to workers with a job seeker account. They also will have access to funds for relocation, if necessary.
The government will set up a taskforce to implement the package.