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Axe falls on Holden white-collar jobs

Writing on the wall: Engineers are among white collar employees given their marching orders in the latest job cuts at Holden.

Engineers among workers cut from Holden payroll as local car-maker slices costs

Holden logo12 Sep 2013

By RON HAMMERTON

HOLDEN has axed an undisclosed number of white-collar jobs in Victoria saying it was acting to protect the company’s long-term future in Australia.

The move comes just months after the troubled car-maker handed redundancy packages to about 500 blue-collar staff at its Elizabeth car factory in South Australia, Port Melbourne engine plant and Lang Lang proving ground.

The company declined to say how many employees had gone in the latest round of cuts, but ABC radio in Melbourne is claiming more than 40 engineers have been given notice from General Motors’ Australian subsidiary.

The cuts have mostly come from Holden’s head office and technical centre in Salmon St, Port Melbourne, but some salaried engineers at the company’s Lang Lang proving ground southeast of Melbourne have also been handed redundancies.

Calling the move a “salaried workforce restructure”, Holden blamed the cuts on its need to remain nimble in what it said was arguably the most open and competitive automotive market in the world.

GM Holden senior manager public relations Andrea Matthews told GoAuto that the timing of the job cuts had nothing to do with the result of last week’s federal election, and was planned before that.

She said the July cuts were confined to the blue-collar hourly-pay workforce, mainly in manufacturing areas, and the latest move was to downsize the white-collar ranks, in administration areas as well as engineering.

Holden sales are down 5.4 per cent this year in an overall market up four per cent. Although the new VF Commodore has lifted the sales fortunes of Holden’s big Aussie-made car in recent months, sales of Holden’s other locally assembled offering, the Cruze small sedan and hatch, have slid 17.2 per cent this year in the face of tough competition from Japanese, Korean and Thai imports.

Along with fellow Australian manufacturer Toyota Australia, Holden is also awaiting the bad news on how much the new Coalition government is set to cut co-investment funding for the car industry – said to be essential for the survival of the industry.

The Coalition went into the election saying it would slash such aid, sending shockwaves through the car-makers and their local parts suppliers.

Holden posted a $152.8 million loss last year, at least partly because the high Australian dollar exposed local cars to increased competition.

The exchange rate with the US dollar has since dipped by more than 10 per cent, although prices still remain hot in the marketplace.

To help relieve financial pressure, the company forged a deal with workers at its Elizabeth and Port Melbourne plants to amend their enterprise bargaining agreement to cut labour costs and shore up the company’s future as a local manufacturer.

Today’s Holden statement said that staying nimble in such a competitive market place was an ongoing process that demanded continued attention.

“That is the reality we face,” the statement said. “We have done some significant work in addressing the manufacturing side of our operations, but must also work on the other areas of our business, to be as efficient and effective as possible.

“To ensure the best opportunity for Holden to the successful, we have made the difficult decisions to restructure our salaried workforce.”

Holden said all affected employees would be offered financial counseling and outplacement services.

“It is never easy to make changes like these, but we have taken this step to protect Holden’s long-term future in Australia,” it concluded.

Holden has about 4200 employees in Australia, where it says it costs a $3750 premium to build cars compared with other countries.

Some of the engineering jobs cut this week are likely to coincide with the end of the development of the Chevrolet SS version of the Holden Commodore for export to North America, as well as other development programs undertaken for GM such as the Chevrolet Trax compact SUV and its Opel variant, the Mokka.

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