Ford has the opportunity to give the 1200 employees it will soon retrench a new start. The closure of another iconic Australian plant -- BHP’s Newcastle steelworks -- offers an example.
In 1999, around 1800 BHP employees were left jobless by the closure of the Newcastle steelworks. Their average age was 44, and their average length of service 21 years. As with Ford, there was considerable time between announcement and closure, two years in the case of the steelworks. This gave BHP time to work with unions, the community and government to devise initiatives that would give employees and the regional economy the strongest grounding for a positive transition. The result was an innovative response to the plant's closure, a key element of which was BHP's "Pathways" program.