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Ford Australia calls for 450 more redundancies

Idled down: Ford's new press at the Geelong stamping plant.

Ford Australia to axe a further 450 blue and white-collar workers within a month

Ford logo16 Oct 2008


THE Australian Manufacturing and Workers Union (AMWU) has described Ford Australia’s announcement late this afternoon that it will shed a further 450 jobs next month as “devastating” for the Australian automotive industry.

Today's announcement brings to 1400 the total number of jobs cut at Ford over the past 15 months, some of which have been brought forward from the 600 Geelong engine plant positions that will go in 2010, when Ford switches to an imported Duratec V6.

GoAuto reported exclusively on September 30 that Ford would soon announce a further reduction of its Victorian manufacturing workforce involving white-collar staff - in addition to the 300-350 blue-collar job cuts, or 15 per cent of its 5000-strong workforce, announced on August 22 as part of a 23 production cut from mid-November.

Ford said the latest job cuts will also take place by mid-November in the form of voluntary redundancies - at least initially. They will be split evenly between the company's Geelong and Broadmeadows operations, and this time will involve around 200 white-collar workers.

Ford said staff were warned of further job losses in August and has admitted the program to "right-size" its business in line with falling demand was ongoing, but the AMWU said today's announcement includes the prospect of weekly shifts extending to just two or three days until Christmas.

Ford said it advised the union of up to 10 "down" days - depending on sales of the Falcon and Territory - between the job cuts in November and the Christmas shutdown, which this year will begin earlier and run for a longer four-week period.

 center imageLeft: Ford Falcon production.

New Ford Australia president and CEO Marin Burela made the announcement at 3.30pm this afternoon, just two weeks into the job he started on October 1.

Mr Burela stressed Ford's latest downsizing move involves only voluntary redundancies and described it as a “separation program” that would allow Ford to continue to operate profitably in the future, and which was accelerated by the global economic downturn over the past two weeks.

He said the job cuts were “the right thing to do” to future-proof Ford and that, without them, Ford and its workers would face greater pain to survive in the long-term.

Mr Burela said Ford Australia's plan to produce the next-generation Focus from 2011, and its associated infrastructure, remained intact.

“We don't take these steps and these actions lightly, but we are committed to working with our employees and our union partners to provide a smooth transition for our people as we move forward,” he said.

“However we do need to take these steps. The steps are necessary actions to ensure that we right-size the business, to ensure that we can operate and operate effectively in a very dynamic and changing marketplace here in Australia.”

All affected workers will receive financial and career counselling, said Mr Burela.

AMWU Victorian state secretary Steve Dargavel described the move as “devastating” for the Ford workers involved – each of which he said represented a further seven jobs in the components supply chain industry, which in Ford's case includes Dana, PBR and Unidrive.

He accused Ford of using the opportunity to contract out more than 700 jobs, including 600 at the doomed engine plant. He said global automotive production would treble in coming years and called on the federal government to halt the scheduled reduction in tariffs from 10 to five per cent in 2010 and fast-track its $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund.

As late as yesterday Victorian premier John Brumby appealed to Ford and other automotive employers not to slash jobs.

“Now is not the time to be laying off workers, that's the fact of the matter that's not going to improve the situation, it's only going to make the situation worse,” he said.

“They need to be understanding that if everybody just starts laying off employees the situation will get worse and not better.

“To Ford and to any others, I appeal to them to look to the bigger picture, to work with government, to work with the community, to work together, to stick together, and to make a conscious effort to keep people on rather than putting people off,” said Mr Brumby yesterday.

Mr Burela's full statement follows.

"There has been considerable speculation about our business in recent days and I would like to take this opportunity to outline some of our plans for you going forward.

"At Ford, we are taking the right actions to deliver our success in the future. We are proactively responding to changing market dynamics and global economic uncertainty and making the necessary changes to ensure our future competitiveness.

"We have previously announced that we will be reducing our production levels in mid-November to ensure that we balance our production rates with current market demand and a changing model mix. This is the right course of action to ensure that we can operate profitably and position our brand appropriately in the market place.

"In line with that production down balance, we have also undertaken a strategic review of our total business to ensure that we are appropriately and effectively resourced across all areas of the company to allow us to move our business forward.

"As a result of this proactive strategic review, Ford Australia will be making necessary staffing adjustments which are in line with our current business needs and reflect the realities of the marketplace.

"These actions include a reduction of 450 staff, spread across both our salaried and hourly employee base. These reductions are in addition to the 350 previously announced and will take place in a similar timeframe.

"Our separation program will be undertaken on a voluntary basis and all employee benefits and entitlements will be provided. Financial and career counselling will also be offered to all employees who wish to take up the voluntary opportunity.

"We do not undertake such actions lightly and we are committed to working with our employees and union partners to provide a smooth transition for employees. However, we will take the actions necessary to do what's right for our business and are fully committed to a long term, profitable growth strategy in Australia.

"As part of that, we continue to move forward with investing in exciting new products that meet the needs of Australian consumers and build on Ford's strong reputation for safety, quality, and excellence.

"Our new FG Falcon is building its share of the large car segment and has recently been awarded Australia's first 5-star safety rating from ANCAP. This result reflects the ingenuity and engineering and manufacturing excellence that is a hallmark of Ford's Australian operations. We will continue to drive this innovation through everything that we do.

"We are determined to continue changing our brand in the eyes of Australians and meeting the needs of Australian consumers. Although difficult, the realignment actions we have announced today are part of a cohesive strategy to set up our business to do just that."

Read more:

Ford's new president ‘not disheartened’ on Falcon

Ford to sack white-collar workers

Ford Australia names new president

Holden cuts workforce after GM cancels programs

Local car suppliers shed jobs

Ford to slash production and jobs in Australia

Big Three take tariff fight to Canberra

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