70 jobs to go at Mulgrave's Agilent 

MULGRAVE'S manufacturing sector has suffered a new blow as instrument maker Agilent Technologies moves its production lines to Malaysia at the cost of dozens of jobs.

Agilent, formerly Varian Inc, last week confirmed that 70 jobs were likely to be lost over two years as its instrument assembly is shifted to Penang in an effort to maintain its competitive edge. The company said 280 staff would be keeping their jobs.

Workers were told of the move recently. The jobs hits — Agilent's second round of redundancies — are expected to affect factory floor and assembly staff.

The company develops products such as atomic and molecular analysis equipment for engineers and scientists.

About a year ago Agilent, which was hit hard by the global financial crisis, moved some of its production lines to Malaysia, but the recent announcement only weeks out from Christmas is believed to have blindsided workers who thought there would be no more job losses.

Agilent Technologies general manager, Philip Binns, said the company's Australian arm was facing "fierce" competition from other regions of the world. The US-based company's customers are moving to low-cost economies such as Asia and South America.

"We have a dedicated and talented workforce in Melbourne but, unfortunately, because of a major shift in our key markets and increasing international competition, we've had to reduce the number of people working in the assembly operation at our Mulgrave site," he said.

"The move will enable the company to continue pursuing growth in these regions while increasing investment in research and development, global marketing and the manufacture of core optical technologies in Australia."

Despite the job cuts, Mr Binns said the company had a strong future in Australia. The company recently announced it would spend $25 million on a new technology and innovation centre in Mulgrave that will open in mid 2013.

"Our priority now is to support all employees during this transition period. We will honour all employee entitlements of those affected and offer them extensive outplacement and general counselling services."

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