'CBD will become a ghost town'

THE Grafton CBD will become a ghost town if more than 100 jail workers are forced to take their families and their wallets out of the region, says union boss Matt Bindley.

His dire forecast for the local economy came on Tuesday after it was revealed businesses would lose access to more than $9million in prison wages if the State Government's planned overhaul of the jail went ahead.

While the community is set to protest against the cuts on Thursday, Mr Bindley has already been told most, if not all, endangered workers would accept transfers to other parts of the state if there was no job for them in Grafton.

"This is devastating for workers and their families who are entrenched in the local community," Mr Bindley said. "But it won't be a case of whether they want to stay. It will simply be a case of if they want to further their employment - they have to leave."

In the past, Mr Bindley has seen what happens to a community when even a small number of jobs are lost and he believes stripping positions from the largest employer in the region will have a historic impact on the economy.

He said real estate prices would drop dramatically, infrastructure would suffer and small businesses would be hit even harder in an already tough economic climate.

Those families who chose to stay and look for work locally will be forced to tighten their belts and Mr Bindley said the first thing to go would be the "luxuries" like going out for a coffee or hiring a DVD from the video store.

"Less money means families can't afford to spend, which leads to closure of business and closure of one business always leads to closure of more businesses," Mr Bindley said

"This is not a healthy option for families or for the region."

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