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Oz auto crisis: Unions to blame?

2014-02-12 08:19

POTENTIAL ECONOMIC DISASTER: Unions believe that 50 000 jobs could be lost when Toyota ends production in Australia in 2017. Image: AFP

SYDNEY, Australia - The Australian government and Toyota are at loggerheads over why the automaker is about to pull its vehicle manufacturing out of that country.

Toyota blamed high production costs, a strong Australian dollar and a small domestic market for the quit decision, to be complete by 2017, a move that would finally close down Australia's 66-year-old auto manufacturing industry with Holden and Ford having already having made the same decision.

TAKING ON THE UNION

Government treasurer Joe Hockey was quoted as saying, in a private conversation with Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda in December 2012, that conditions at the automaker’s Melbourne factory were the key reason.

The claim was made in the Australian Financial Review, with Hockey later confirming the story. Hockey said: "The fact is they were very concerned about the conditions that existed at Toyota in Australia."

He added that one of the issues stemmed from the "militancy" at the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union.

He cited the example of the Australian factory closing for 21 days over the December holidays with Toyota unable to supply its biggest market, the Middle East. Hockey claimed that when Toyota asked workers to instead have a 10-day shutdown, the union intervened and took the automaker to court.

Toyota had a different version of events, contradicting the treasurer: "Toyota Australia has never blamed the union for our decision to close manufacturing operations by the end of 2017, neither publicly nor in private discussions with any stakeholders."

The AMWU called Toyota’s statement "a blow to the government's credibility"; Labour opposition leader Bill Shorten blasted Hockey's "pathetic attacks on these workers".

50 000 JOBS AT RISK

Unions fear Toyota's departure will see 50 000 jobs lost along the supply chain, mostly in components manufacturing and transport, and Labour has blamed the government for not doing enough to prevent Toyota walking away.

The decision to halt manufacturing follows Mitsubishi ending production in 2009, Ford halting production in 2016 and General Motors announcing in December 2012 that its Holden brand would end Australian production in 2017.
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Read more on:    toyota  |  australia  |  unions  |  industry  |  vehicles

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