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AWU and Oceania Glass issue joint statement

April 6, 2020

The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and Australia’s only float glass manufacturer, Oceania Glass, are jointly calling on governments to recognise the critical importance of the glass industry and its role in critical economic supply chains in Australia.

In the event that the federal or state governments move towards more severe lock-down scenarios to slow the spread of COVID-19, the glass industry should be classified as essential.

Glass is a high capital cost industry with low people density and high value.

Closing down glass furnaces, even temporarily, could be catastrophic. Furnaces take months of capital set-up costs and work to reach appropriate operating capacity. A temporary shutdown would pose significant investment challenges for an already capital-intensive industry facing astronomical energy prices.

Once a float glass furnace is commissioned and attains operating temperature, it cannot be stopped. It must be kept hot for its full life (±20 years). This requires 24/7 control from highly skilled operators. In the event that a furnace is cooled down the refractory materials that the furnace is constructed from, suffers from thermal shock and fractures. Repairing this damage will costs millions of dollars and result in a plant outage of 12 months or more.

The shutdown of the glass industry would jeopardise not just those employed directly, but have significant ramifications for the building & construction industry.

Oceania Glass is Australia’s only float glass manufacturer, supplying architectural glass to all commercial and residential construction across every state in Australia. Products range from clear and tinted float glass to laminated safety glass. These products are processed by a large number of glass processing companies into products like single- and double-glazed windows, sliding doors, shower screens, splash backs, balustrades, staircases, internal partitioning and more.

Disruptions to trade caused by international freight restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that Australia’s construction industry is relying heavily on Viridian Glass to continue operating. By stopping operations, residential and commercial construction sites across the East Coast of Australia will inevitably have supply chain disruptions.

The glass industry already practices very high standards of hygiene to protect all employees from routine work health and safety risks. These practices have been galvanized and expanded since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Implementation of all Government and Healthcare recommendations for the workplace.
  • All non-operational staff working from home.
  • Only essential contractors allowed on site.
  • Full segregation of departments to minimise exposure and impact of a potential positive case.
  • Critical Hot End operations that cannot be stopped have been isolated to operational personnel only.
  • Back-up operational emergency teams for critical operations have been mobilised in isolated conditions on-site and off-site.

The AWU and Oceania Glass call on Australian governments to classify the glass industry as ‘essential’ and allow the industry to remain operational.


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