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Holden workers vote yes on EBA

Strong words: ALP Senator Kim Carr this week described industry minister Ian Macfarlane’s offer to tour Holden’s production lines as little more than a “walk of shame”.

Elizabeth workers vote to accept tougher wage deal as Holden waits on election

Holden logo13 Aug 2013

A CLEAR majority of workers at Holden’s Elizabeth assembly plant in South Australia have voted to accept a tougher new workplace agreement, but the future of the company’s local manufacturing operations remains far from clear.

The factory’s 1700 employees voted in the affirmative today via secret ballot, with the results revealed this afternoon. The result clears a path for Holden to enact a three-year wage freeze, require faster turnaround on overtime shifts and place more restrictions on annual leave.

However, the vote does not guarantee Holden’s long-term future as a local car-maker. The company reiterated its stance this week that it would wait until after the September 7 federal election before making a final decision on its vehicle production future here beyond 2016.

Like fellow US subsidiary Ford Australia, which will pull the pin on its Australian plants by October 2016, GM Holden struggles to justify the cost of building the Commodore and Cruze here, with our low barriers to entry, high wage levels and strong dollar all having adverse effects.

Speaking outside the Holden factory today, South Australia secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) John Camillo said workers had voted overwhelmingly to accept the tougher deal.

“It was a tough choice. They’ve made the right decision,” he told media, including the ABC, at the site. “The workers here made a clear majority vote to support the next generation of vehicles here in Australia, to make these vehicles here at the Elizabeth operation.

“I thought it was going to be very, very close but these people have made the right choice. It was a very, very strong vote in regards to a positive ‘yes’.

“It’s a hard ask but these changes with regard to working overtime, flexible working arrangements don’t hurt anybody. They’ll get used to that,” he said.

“(With) the decline of the auto industry, there’s not much of a bargaining chip you have and while we sat down and discussed as much as we could, the ball’s not in our court.

“There is a future in the automotive industry if we all work together in getting there. The next tick in the box will be the politicians, whether they’ re prepared to support GMH.” While Holden said it would produce two models through to 2022 here following a $275 million government injection in March 2012, it now says conditions have changed and will require additional government funding post-election to supplement GM’s own projected $1 billion investment.

The federal opposition has committed to launching a Productivity Commission review into public funding for the Australian car-making industry if it is elected in September’s poll. It has also promised to cut $500 million from the Automotive Transformation Scheme.

Around 400 workers clocked off for the final time at the end of July, part of the latest round of job cuts announced in April this year. All accepted voluntary redundancy: brought about by a GM decision to cut production at Elizabeth from 400 cars per day to 335.

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