Unemployment bus to hit 25 workers

THE collective set up to create and nurture a vehicle manufacturing hub on the Mid North Coast is now facing a much more daunting challenge - finding jobs for the local victims of the high Australian dollar and intense foreign competition.

Express Coach Builders in Macksville this week announced it was preparing to lay off almost one quarter of its workforce.

That means 25 skilled employees will soon be looking for new positions.

They will be hoping the Manufacture Coffs Coast Cluster brings some assistance in their search for work.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Trade and Development said discussions with other cluster members would be taking place.

"We will be in ongoing discussions with other members of the MCCC to identify potential opportunities for the displaced workers," the spokesman said.

ETC general manager Michael Close said there were opportunities for employees with qualifications, as many skills were transferable to new areas.

"Macksville Diecast, Abi Group and Tellum are all local employers who may need staff," Mr Close said.

Express Coach Builders general manager Paul Hoffmann said while the high Australian dollar was one factor affecting the local manufacturing industry, a bigger problem was the competition from imported Chinese buses, which could be bought for about $80,000 less that their Australian-made counterparts.

"When the dollar was lower we were able to compete against these imports with our superior product," Mr Hoffmann said.

"Our sales have dropped 35% in the past nine months and we have already reduced our production from five to four days."

He said production costs were crippling, with $13,500 in various taxes paid for each of the 60 buses (worth $367,000 each) produced annually.

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