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by Tim Beissmann

The launch of the new Toyota Camry could be delayed as a result of industrial action by Toyota Australia manufacturing and parts centre workers. Strike action has resumed today – the fourth down day this month – as company executives and union representatives continue to disagree over employee pay rates.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union spokesman David Smith confirmed the majority of workers had agreed not to work today or tomorrow, meaning the industrial action would stretch to at least five days without production.

Mr Smith said the AMWU had been in further discussions with Toyota Australia and the Fair Work Australia commission over the past week, but he admitted the negotiations “haven’t quite got us to where we want”.

He said Toyota’s latest offer to employees – which has been rejected by the unions – was an 11 per cent pay raise over 36 months with a revised increment structure. CarAdvice understands the new agreement sees the 11 per cent pay raise divided in four increases of two per cent, 2.5 per cent, and two more of 3.25 per cent over the coming 36 months.

The offer is an improvement over the company’s previous proposal of 11 per cent over 39 months, but still falls short of the unions’ original demands of 12 per cent over 36 months backdated to July 26 (the date that the previous agreement ended).

Toyota Australia has shifted its position the most in the negotiations so far, although Mr Smith admitted the unions were also willing to budge on their demands to reach an agreement.

“My mind has always been open,” he said. “It is not ‘we must have this’. There is a willingness to negotiate.”

Toyota Australia’s Glenn Campbell confirmed 555 employees showed up for work this morning, significantly more than the 400 that defied the strike on both Thursday and Friday last week.

Mr Campbell said today and tomorrow’s industrial action would mean total strike costs of $50 million in lost sales, 3300 vehicles in lost production, another $400 out of the hip pockets of Toyota employees, and more time out of work for up to 11,000 supplier employees.

Echoing the words of Toyota Australia President and CEO, Max Yasuda, from last week, Mr Campbell said the industrial action continued to undermine Australia’s reputation as a reliable vehicle manufacturer.

The Altona facility was scheduled to cease vehicle production next week as the company converts equipment to be ready for production of the new seventh-generation Camry, but the strikes have forced those plans to change.

Toyota will run three single shifts next week in an attempt to catch up on lost production. Mr Campbell said Toyota Australia was committed to completing all orders for the run-out Camry model.

As a result, he said the launch of the new Camry – currently scheduled for November – could be pushed back, although he said at this stage it was difficult to speculate on how long the delay might be.

Now almost three weeks after the first 24-hour strike on September 2, Mr Campbell said Toyota Australia was keen to settle the dispute.

“We are eager to get an agreement and we continue to have discussions with our workers and the unions.”

The AMWU’s Mr Smith said he too was hopeful an agreement would be reached shortly, but admitted there was unlikely to be significant progress over the coming week due to the scheduled downtime at Altona.

What happens from here is still a little up in the air. Further strike action would require the unions to meet with their members again to agree on the next step to take. Mr Smith said he could not pre-empt whether the strikes were likely to continue.

He said an employee vote on wages, which he believed would be finalised around October 9/10, was likely to influence the way forward, if a resolution could not be reach before then.




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