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Toyota workers to strike again

Action: Altona's 3200 workers – most employed on two shifts, five days a week – voted by secret ballot to strike on Friday after rejecting a pay offer from Toyota Australia.

Toyota Australia factory workers plan more industrial action as pay dispute drags on

Toyota logo1 Sep 2011

UPDATED: 5/09/2011TOYOTA Australia is bracing for more production setbacks at its Altona factory in Victoria and other facilities after workers voted to stop work for two days a week for the next three weeks and banned working overtime indefinitely from this Thursday, September 8.

The latest action, which is threatening to put a hole in run-out stocks of current Camry sedans ahead of the change over to the all-new model later this year, was taken during a 24-hour strike for more pay last Friday.

Some 3200 Altona plant workers – most employed on two shifts, five days a week – and employees at Toyota Australia’s Sydney parts centre walked off the job on Friday after voting to reject the company’s pay rise offer of 11 per cent over 39 months (made in July) and other options put forward last Thursday that included a seven per cent rise over two years plus a bonus.

The workers want an increase of four per cent a year over three years.

Toyota Australia has this week confirmed to GoAuto that it received notification last Friday from the unions involved of their intention to undertake “protection industrial action in the form of work stoppages every Thursday, starting September 8, and Friday for the next three weeks, plus a ban on working overtime from Thursday, September 8”.

The strike action will cost Toyota about 560 vehicles a day destined for both local and export markets.

Last week’s snap strike came just a week after Toyota revealed the new-generation Camry at co-coordinated events in the United States and Australia, ahead of its global rollout in the final quarter of this year.

 center imageLeft: Altona plant.

The Altona plant is gearing up to change over to the new, seventh-generation model in October, gradually ramping up production in preparation for a late November showroom release. The Camry Hybrid is set to follow in early 2012, with the V6 Aurion completing the set in the second quarter.

The current dispute has been brewing since March when the union representing workers at the plant started negotiating with Toyota for a new workplace agreement to start in late July.

Toyota Australia media and communications manager Laura Hill told GoAuto last week that the company believed the “current offer is fair and reasonable and consider the decision to take protected industrial action as unnecessary”.

“The offer acknowledges the contribution made by employees to produce Toyota vehicles for domestic and export markets,” she said.

“Toyota Australia continues to be willing to hold discussions with the unions and employees to achieve an agreement.”

The strike comes on top of production disruption earlier this year resulting from parts shortages in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The factory was forced to reduce production by 50 per cent on May 9 as parts dried up, contributing to a 25,000 vehicle shortfall in Toyota sales this year.

However, full production was resumed earlier than predicted, after just one month, and has been running at normal levels of about 525 vehicles a day in August.

The pace was to be stepped up to 559 a day last month to build up sufficient stock to tide dealers over until the arrival of the new model, but that was before the strike action announcement.

Alongside preparations for the assembly of the new Camry and Aurion at Altona, Toyota is revamping its four-cylinder engine plant to make new 2.5-litre engines for the new models.

That refurbished $300 million plant is still in the early stages of construction, and will not reach full production until the final quarter of next year.

Until then, engines will be imported from Japan for the new Camry.

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