News - Toyota
Federal minister dips into Toyota row
Employment minister vows intervention on dispute over Toyota factory worker vote
29 Jan 2014
FEDERAL employment minister Eric Abetz last night announced his intention to “intervene” in a dispute over a proposed worker vote on work practices at Toyota’s Altona car plant in Victoria.
He did not say how he would do this, but industry sources suggest the intervention will come in the form of a submission in support of Toyota Australia’s appeal against a federal court rejection of a company plan to seek a worker vote on variations to the enterprise agreement to improve productivity.
Toyota says it needs to alter various clauses – mainly affecting paid leave – to help it cut the cost of manufacturing each Camry car by about $3800 by 2016 to secure the future of the plant.
The federal court late last year blocked a Toyota attempt to put its proposed amendments to a worker vote, agreeing with a submission by four Amalgamated Metal Worker Union representatives that the award should stand.
Toyota lodged an appeal against the decision, and is now awaiting a date for the hearing.
Left: Federal employment minister Eric Abetz.
The company says it needs to make a decision by mid year on the future of the factory, which is facing competition from other, more competitive Toyota Camry plants around the world, including those in the United States and Thailand.
Addressing The Sydney Institute, Senator Abetz said the government supported Toyota’s efforts to address “restrictive practices” at its plant.
“Becoming more productive and thereby providing job security is clearly beneficial for employees, not only of Toyota but of the many companies that supply Toyota,” he said.
“The government supports these efforts.”
Senator Abetz listed the changes sought by Toyota. These include:* Reducing the ‘Christmas shutdown’ period from 21 days to 10 days.
* Reducing the number of paid days leave to attend union delegate training from 10 days per year to five days in the first year and two days in subsequent years.
* Requiring that a doctor’s certificate be provided for sick leave taken beyond the first two days per year.
* Removal of paid ‘wash up time’.
* Removal of a half day’s leave on the last day before shut down (despite being paid for a full day).
* Removal of payment for employees traveling to and from work.
“The half day on the last day before shut down – despite being paid for a full day – means that there are 1586 working days lost, or around $370,000 in wages being paid while no work is being performed,” he said.
“Assuming all of the 69 union delegates take the full 10 days paid leave for education activity, this results in 690 working days lost, or around $150,000 in wages.
“These are just two instances of how more than 2000 working days worth of productivity could be re-injected into Toyota immediately.” Senator Abetz, who is also the government leader in the senate, said the clauses should not have been in the agreement.
“Management needs to accept responsibility,” he said. “But it is deeply troubling that the employees’ right to vote on proposed variations has been frustrated.
“Once again we have union bosses dictating the terms without hearing from the actual employees.
“It is clearly in the public interest that the workers be allowed to vote on Toyota’s proposed variations and determine their own destiny.”
As GoAuto reported last week, the Victorian government has drawn up a battle plan designed to keep Toyota Australia producing cars beyond 2017.
It is believed that the plan requires $300 million of federal assistance for retooling the factory for the next-generation Camry.
Click to share
Motor industry news