Toyota warns of risk to jobs as agreement goes to court

Toyota Australia says its ability to continue producing cars in Australia will be at "serious risk" unless workers vote in favour of a revised workplace agreement this week - that is, if the agreement even makes it to a vote.

Toyota Australia says its ability to continue producing cars in Australia will be at "serious risk" unless workers vote in favour of a revised workplace agreement this week - that is, if the agreement even makes it to a vote.

As rumours persist over Holden's presence in Australia, Toyota has been fighting for its own future in the Federal Court over proposed variations to an "outdated" workplace agreement it says makes its local operations uncompetitive.

The looming deadlock between unions and Toyota could threaten the future of 50,000 workers around Australia. If Toyota was to close its local manufacturing operations, it would almost certainly force Holden to make the same decision, in turn putting pressure on component makers.

The proposed variations to the workplace agreements were a direct result of Toyota's headquarters instructing Australian management to reduce the cost of each car produced locally by $3800.

The vote for the proposed agreement variations was due to take place last Friday. However, four shop stewards at Toyota's Altona factory have now taken the issue to court, arguing that variations cannot be made to the agreement until it expires in March 2015. If Toyota is successful in court and the vote proceeds as planned this Friday, workers have been encouraged to vote no to the variations.

Toyota first mooted variations to the agreement in October. The conditions apply to about 2000 of the company's manufacturing workers. Holden successfully implemented similar variations in August, designed to help it achieve $15 million in annual savings.

As part of the proposal, Toyota agreed to honour two scheduled pay rises for workers next year, but says it will have to offset the $17 million required by improving productivity in other areas. One variation is that the standard three-week break over Christmas be halved to correspond with high order numbers.

Toyota has confirmed that it will make a decision on its manufacturing future in the first half of next year, adding further to the uncertainty around the industry.

While he recognised instability around the automotive industry, David Smith of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said the proposed agreement was not in the best interests of Toyota employees.

A decision on the proposed variations by the Federal Court is expected by Thursday, with the EBA vote due to take place on Friday if Toyota is successful.

â– The US government's bailout of General Motors ended on Monday with the Treasury Department saying it had sold its final shares of GM stock. It allows the company to continue its comeback free from the stigma of being known as "Government Motors".

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