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Uncertain future for 160 Silcar employees

Staff could be without a job in the new year following Bluescope Steel's decision to end a maintenance services agreement with Silcar

Silcar, which has won several multi-million contracts for the National Broadband Network (NBN), will potentially lay off 160 staff in January next year.

The company made the announcement yesterday following a decision by Bluescope Steel that it would not renew a maintenance services agreement for its Western Port site when the contract expires 26 January.

“Bluescope’s decision to not renew this agreement means Silcar may lose the services of 160 loyal and valued staff. With the expiry of this agreement, Silcar will cease operations at Bluescope Hastings on 26 January, 2013, following nine years of service,” Silcar said in a statement.

Silcar said it was working with its employees and unions to find alternative employment for staff.

Silcar is a 50/50 joint venture between Siemens and Thiess Services. The company was awarded a contract in September this year worth up to $78 million to install NBN equipment in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

It was also awarded a $380 million contract in June 2011 to construct and deliver a passive fibre network covering New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

Dan Birmingham, project director of the Silcar/Thiess Services joint venture, recently told an NBN forum that over the next three years, the company will be responsible for delivering 25,000km of fibre for the NBN.

Birmingham noted a challenge for the company was filling staffing requirements.

“If we were to rely on [the] existing sub-contractor base within Silcar Comms or their resources, I don’t think we’d handle the volume, so we need to start to look at different areas where we can build this capability,” he said.

“The first one is obviously from the sub-contractor market. It is very important to support those lower tier sub-contractors in the market to bring them with us on the journey.”

Birmingham also said Silcar would look to its parent companies to help fill resource requirements.

“We are building capacity, not just relying on existing capacity in the market, but building it,” he said.

Silcar will eventually need to pass 150 houses an hour at the peak of the rollout, with “full speed … just over the horizon”.

Silcar was not available for comment.

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