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Oz Toyota in unfair sackings row

2012-04-25 09:22

SYDNEY, Australia - Auto industry workers here have taken Toyota to court with unfair dismissal claims applying to health and safety posts and union stewards.

The 12 people were among 350 laid off by the Japanese automaker in January 2012 due to "unprecedented" pressure in Australia due to the faltering economy.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn said "a disproportionate number of health and safety representatives and shop stewards" were made redundant.

SAFETY CONCERNS

The laywers said suit has been filed in the Federal Court alleging "targeted and unlawful discrimination". Lawyer Josh Bornstein said: "There is a stench in the way Toyota has gone about these sackings and there is a stench in the way redundancy criteria were misused to target particular employees."

Bornstein said the employees wanted reinstatement and compensation.

David Smith of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, said there were "serious concerns about future safety standards at the plant" in Melbourne. "There is a very real danger that people won't put their hand up for workplace health and safety roles for fear of persecution if they do their job well. That could lead to tragedy."

GIFT TO A PLANT

Australia's vehicle industry is struggling due to the Aussie dollar exchange rate, rising production costs and faltering domestic sales. The Canberra government recently gave General Motors' subsidiary Holden the equivalent of R2.2-billion to keep its plants open over fears it would pull out of Australia. The city also pledged R273-million to boost Ford production.

Earlier in 2012 Holden announced that it would fire 100 people, about 7.5% of its workforce, citing "severe operating conditions resulting in unsustainable financial returns".

Toyota said demand had failed to recover since the 2010 global downturn with production dropping 36% since 2007 when 149 000 vehicles were made. The forecast for 2012 is only 95 000.

AFP