Furniture retailer Freedom is no longer going to stock locally produced items in its stores and is moving sofa manufacturing jobs offshore.
Multinational firm Steinhoff, which owns Freedom, Snooze and Bay Leather Republic, informed staff in writing that it would no longer stock Australian-produced items in its stores across the country.
In a letter to staff, Freedom managing director Tim Schaafsma said the Freedom brand had decided to “move its upholstery supply to offshore vendors” and that unless alternative customers were secured, production of sofas at the factory would cease around April.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union said approximately 30 workers in Freedom’s Kings Park factory, in western Sydney, were directly affected by the retailer’s decision.
CFMEU forestry and furnishing products division NSW secretary Craig Smith said in a statement released today that while the union was demanding Freedom rethink the decision to offshore jobs, the case highlighted an equally urgent need to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs across the country.
Freedom’s move follows online retailer The Iconic moving customer service jobs offshore and Harvey Norman warning that more Australian jobs will be moved offshore unless companies operating outside Australia are made to pay GST.
“It is outrageous that Freedom, a retailer that has a long history of trading on the quality workmanship of their expert team of Australian upholsterers, has told those very same staff that in just two months their jobs will be sent overseas,” Smith said.
“While we hope Freedom will reverse this decision, and recognise that Australian consumers have a strong preference for quality, locally-made products, this announcement is a stark reminder of the urgent need for action to support the manufacturing sector, which has become one of the innocent victims of the mining boom.”
Smith said the announcement was “a terrible blow” for the 30 manufacturing staff and left them with a very uncertain future.
CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor called on the government and opposition to come together with a plan to manage the mining boom so it delivers for all Australian.
“Rather than allowing the jobs of hard-working Australians to be shifted offshore, we are fighting for policies that will go towards supporting local employment,” he said.
Alexandra Kentmann, spokesperson for Freedom, told SmartCompany the move to offshore production from April this year was a “difficult decision”.
“This decision is not a reflection on the production, processes, quality or staff at the Sydney operation – it is due to a change in the upholstery supply strategy which Freedom has chosen to take,” she says.
Kentmann says the move will result in “production cost benefits” which will then be passed on to customers and will not affect quality.
Freedom will provide a counselling service for the workers affected.