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Weekend talks avert car plant shutdown

Back to work: The industrial dispute at DAIR Industries has concluded after negotiations between the company and unions at Fair Work Australia on Sunday. Image: Google Street View.

Back to work at DAIR Industries after redundancy payout deal sealed by workers

General News logo13 Aug 2012

A DISPUTE that threatened to bring car production to a halt at GM Holden and Ford this week is over, with workers at vehicle component manufacturer DAIR Industries voting last night to accept a compromise on capped redundancy payouts thrashed out at Fair Work Australia in Melbourne.

Workers had been picketing the Dandenong factory in Victoria over the issue since Wednesday, slashing production of components such as rear bumper assemblies, foot brakes, clutch mechanisms, hood hinges, parking brakes and car jacks.

But in negotiations on Sunday, the company and unions agreed to a redundancy payout cap of 104 weeks for long-serving workers – a deal later ratified by workers.

DAIR production resumed this morning, but car manufacturers were still juggling production schedules to cover parts shortages.

Ford Australia public affairs director Sinead Phipps said one example of parts in short supply was the third-row seat runners for the seven-seat Territory.

“We will be able to produce a full day’s schedule today and tomorrow, but we are just having to juggle the models being produced,” she said.

The dispute over redundancy payouts reflects the nervousness of the 140 workers at DAIR Industries – and across the component manufacturing sector in general – over job security.

Hundreds of jobs have already been slashed as local car-makers cut production and struggle against competition generated by the high Aussie dollar.

Two parts-makers, APV Automotive Components and CMI Industries, have closed factories in the past two weeks, costing more than 200 workers their jobs.

DAIR, which has been in business since the 1960s, was acquired last year by another parts-maker, Autodom Ltd, which reported a $647,922 loss on revenues of $46.8 million in 2011.

The dispute over redundancies stemmed from that take-over, with DAIR workers refusing to accept a revised agreement over capped redundancies in line with Autodom policy.

Federal workplace relations minister Bill Shorten helped to broker the settlement, talking with both sides.

Victorian manufacturing minister Richard Dalla-Riva said in a statement that the dispute highlighted the failings of federal Labor’s Fair Work Act to deal with “reckless and irresponsible union behaviour”.

“The fact is it should never have come to this before sanity prevailed,” he said.

“Until the Gillard government adopts sensible reforms to its workplace laws, vital industries like manufacturing will continue to face irresponsible and reckless threats like we have seen in these past days.”

DAIR’s general manager of operations Kevin Boyle told AAP that the dispute had hurt everyone involved.

“It’s been damaging to everybody – the company financially and individuals financially,” he said outside Fair Work Australia.

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