Eureka tiles: Another factory to close

ANOTHER Ballarat manufacturing company will close its doors, with workers set to lose their jobs just days before Christmas.Eureka Tiles will close on December 23, just one year short of its centenary anniversary.The move will put 24 staff members out of work, and means the end of ceramic tile production in Victoria.Eureka Tiles general manager Mark Schofield said the mood had been sombre around the factory but the workers were realists."It's been a difficult for a number of years," he said."The factory management and employees have worked very, very hard to maintain efficient production but they understood ... they could see the stock building up."Mr Schofield assured that all affected staff members would receive their redundancy packages.The manufacturing industry in Ballarat has been hard hit in recent times.In November last year, 110 employees lost their jobs when Ballarat foundry John Valves closed its doors.In April, most of Miric Industries 90 workers lost their jobs after the company's 20-year relationship with Holden came to an end.April also saw 54 workers made redundant at Wendouree truck trailer manufacturer MaxiTrans.And in June, after 38 years of business, Ballarat manufacturer Lyco closed down, with at least 80 workers left unemployed.Eureka Tiles was the last remaining ceramic tile factory in Victoria and one of only three left in Australia.The company formed in 1910 and started operating in 1912.Mr Schofield said the company had found it increasingly difficult to compete with the cheap product available from Asia, particularly with a strong Australian dollar."A lot of the staff members have been working there for 20 years or more and it's unfortunate that we've had to suspend manufacturing activities," he said."We would highly recommend staff and be more than willing to give them references. In fact we've made calls today to actively place them in businesses around Ballarat."Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union divisional branch secretary Steve Roach said the closure was the consequence of free trade."It's getting more and more difficult to fund Australia-made products on the shelf," he said."You see people like Frank Walker boasting about it .. . with cheap imported tiles from France or Italy or wherever."