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Boral workers face uncertain future


Hundreds of workers at Boral face an uncertain future after the building products maker announced it would cut 700 staff from its Australian operations.

The announcement comes on the same day that Vodafone revealed it would shut down its Crazy John's mobile phone operation, resulting in up to 300 job losses, and two days after steelmaker BlueScope announced it was shedding 170 jobs in Victoria.

Boral said on Wednesday the 700 redundancies would be made at all levels of its business with the majority expected to come from managerial and office staff ranks, in a move predicted to save the company $90 million a year.

Chief executive Mike Kane said the cuts were needed because over time Boral had become burdened with excessive overhead costs.

"The review is purposely not focused on sales functions or operational roles and therefore will have no impact on the level or type of services provided to customers," he told reporters.

"The review has identified managerial and functional support areas where inefficiencies and duplication have crept in over time.

Of the 700 redundancies, Boral says 200 have already occurred, and the remainder are expected to be completed by March.

Sydney, which is home to Boral's head office, will bear the brunt of the cuts.

Jobs losses in NSW will make up 40 per cent of the total with Victoria and Queensland each bearing another 20 per cent. Another 12 per cent will come from South Australia, eight per cent from Western Australia and the rest from Tasmania.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said the job cuts at Boral represented a "shocking start" to 2013 for the local manufacturing sector.

He suspected the decision was an attempt by the company's new CEO to impress the board and shareholders by getting a short-term bounce in its share price.

Boral shares surged by more than 10 per cent after the announcement.

However, Mr Howes said he was confident the AWU would be able to work with Boral to minimise the impact on union members, and had met the company on Wednesday morning for preliminary discussions.

Federal opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella blamed the federal government for the job losses, saying "red tape, higher taxes and increased business burdens" had added to costs on the manufacturing sector.

Acting Employment Minister Kate Ellis said the federal government was poised to announce its response to the manufacturing taskforce report commissioned by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year.

"There has been a full and a widespread review and we'll be looking at announcing a response to that inquiry in the near future," Ms Ellis told reporters in Adelaide.

Meanwhile, Vodafone said it would shut down its Crazy John's mobile phone operation on February 20, a move tipped to result in up to 300 job losses.

Vodafone said it would try to redeploy some of Crazy John's 300 staff to other parts of its business, and that customers would be incorporated into the larger Vodafone store and dealership network.

Acting NSW Opposition Leader Linda Burney said it was a "tragic day" for hundreds of workers at Boral and Crazy John's.

She said a third of Boral's job cuts would occur in NSW, and Crazy John's had stores across Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast.

The downbeat jobs news comes after steelmaker BlueScope announced on Monday it was cutting 170 jobs in Victoria as it reduced production to cut costs.

Bluescope said 110 staff at its Hastings mill, southeast of Melbourne, would go in the coming months, along with about 60 contractors.