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Toyota workers reject offer

Strike: Toyota faces more unrest as it tries to prepare its Altona plant for the introduction this month of the all-new Camry.

Altona plant turmoil rolls on as Toyota workers reject pay offer in secret ballot

Toyota logo10 Oct 2011

UPDATED: 11/10/2011TOYOTA Australia workers have rejected the company’s latest pay offer, with the majority voting ‘no’ in a secret ballot late last week.

The result is a slap in the face for the company, which forced the vote on its 3300 workers at its Altona car plant in Victoria and parts distribution centres in Melbourne and Sydney in an effort to bring the long-running dispute over a new pay agreement to a conclusion.

The vote outcome was announced on Monday by Toyota, which sought the electronic poll under the Fair Work Act after weeks of deadlocked talks and strikes. No exact figures were given.

Australia’s biggest motor company now faces the prospect of more unrest as it tries to prepare its plant for the introduction of the crucial all-new Camry that it had been hoping to launch before the end of the year.

The dispute has already forced a delay in the start of new-Camry production this month as a result of five lost working days since the start of September as workers walked off the job under protected strike action.

Toyota Australia public affairs manager Glenn Campbell told GoAuto on Tuesday that the company was back in negotiations with union representatives at Fair Work Australia “to achieve an outcome”.

He also said Altona workers had been stood down over an eight-day period for an “unplanned shutdown” to prepare for the new model.

“Due to the delay in the ‘build out’ of the current model caused by the industrial action, an unplanned shutdown period is required to prepare for production of the new model,” he said.

 center imageLeft: Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda.

“A staggered shutdown will occur from October 11 to Wednesday, October 19, so that’s starting today, but I should make the point that when we say ‘shutdown’ there is still a requirement for some employees to be at work because we are preparing the lines for conversion for the new model.”

Toyota had offered workers an 11 per cent pay rise over 36 months, while unions representing the workers – the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and Communications Electrical Plumbing Union (CEPU) – have been seeking 12 per cent over 36 months.

The Toyota offer also includes requirements for an improvement in absenteeism levels to lift productivity at the plant in Melbourne’s west.

Announcing the ballot result today, Toyota Australia executive director manufacturing Chris Harrod said Toyota would continue to work with its employees to determine the reasons for the unsuccessful vote.

“We’re keen to find a way to reach an agreement with our employees and the unions,” he said.

“We acknowledge that we need to better understand what the specific concerns are for our employees.”

Toyota said more than 3000 workers had voted in the poll, which used an electronic system to enable employees to cast their vote at work at all Toyota sites or at home.

The pay dispute has led to heightened tensions at the Altona plant, where some workers who refused to go on strike were targeted by vitriolic pamphlets.

Toyota has warned the workers that the strike action could adversely affect the future of the plant by raising costs and reducing competitiveness against other Toyota plants vying for business around the world.

“If Australian operations are uncompetitive and perceived as unreliable, these cars can be made in another Toyota plant,” Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda said last month.

“It puts a serious dent in Australia’s reputation as a car-maker and reduces job security for our employees.”

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