Reports of job cuts at several engineering firms are thought to suggest the downturn in key sectors is being compounded by a lack of new infrastructure spending.
Aurecon has reportedly made 300 people redundant – representing 4% of its global workforce – and 180 of those jobs are said to have been based in Australia. The cuts follow 300 job cuts over the last financial year by engineering consultancy Cardno, and roughly 45 reported cuts at Hyder Australia in the past few months.
Aurecon boss Giam Swiegers, who used to head up Deloitte Australia, told Fairfax the market was late to respond to downturn in key markets.
“I think we all agree we were slow in reacting when the first downturn came,” he was quoted as saying.
Cardno boss Richard Wankmuller sang the same tune, quoted: “It’s a people-based business so people are reluctant to cut people. They’re relatively slow to cut people, so even though the market may have finished a downturn, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the downturn for the people.”
The suffering in key markets such as mining and infrastructure has been intensified by a quieter period than expected in terms of infrastructure spending.
Planned projects have been delayed or, like Melbourne’s East West tollroad, scrapped entirely. Figures show the Australian construction sector contracted for the 12th successive month in June.
“Towards the end of last year, I thought things were really looking up,” Hyder Australia boss Greg Steele was quoted by Fairfax. “I didn’t factor in changes in government in Victoria or Queensland. Thankfully, NSW is still keeping us afloat.”