Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane believes there’s a “very high chance” Toyota will stop building cars in Australia if its employees do not accept revised workplace agreements.
Macfarlane told ABC News today talks between the federal and Victorian governments in Melbourne this week had not delivered a plan to save the Altona-based car maker and the state’s automotive parts suppliers, but said the two agreed changes to “archaic” workplace arrangements were vital.
“What I’m saying to the workers of Toyota is think very carefully about the current situation, with the current reforms that Toyota is trying to put in place,” Macfarlane said.
“If those reforms don’t take place then there’s a very high chance that Toyota will not be able to compete and, therefore, the last car manufacturer in Australia will close.
“The reality is that unless we can reduce the cost of producing cars in Australia, then the Toyota workers will not have a job in the long term.”
Toyota Australia – which is aiming to reduce the production cost of every car it builds by $3800 by 2018 – is currently appealing a Federal Court decision barring it from making changes to it workplace agreement after workers lodged an official complaint about proposed changes.
Macfarlane says the car maker will struggle to be competitive with rival overseas production plants without changes, and encouraged workers to accepts compromises to their entitlements.
“We need to make sure that in terms of the work practices, that they are allowing the productivity we need out of that plant for it to be competitive internationally,” he said.
“An archaic workplace practice system, such as having four hours off to give blood, will not make that plant competitive.”
Macfarlane also warned that unions needed to be flexible in their demands of the car maker or face the reality that “we will never get the productivity of the plant to the level that it needs to be”.
“On that basis nothing, nothing, the Commonwealth does and nothing the Victorian Government does will save that plant from closing.”
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union national secretary Paul Bastian slammed the minister’s comments, however, insisting it was Toyota Australia’s responsibility, and not that of the workers, to make its factory financially viable.
“We are not going to stand by and cop any government or any government minister seeking to apportion their failings, blaming workers. It’s not on,” Bastian told ABC.
“It’s not about sacrificing conditions. It’s about having a dialogue with the company about all the issues.”