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by Tim Beissmann

Almost 200 Ford Australia employees will be stood down today as the Victorian car maker actions redundancies announced in March.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union federal secretary Dave Smith told CarAdvice 199 workers at Ford’s Broadmeadows and Geelong production plants would be forced to accept compulsory redundancy packages today.

“The company opened up a voluntary redundancy offer – they left that open until yesterday to try to maximise voluntary redundancies,” Smith explained.

“They initially said to us there would be up to 300 job losses. I think they eventually settled on a number of 282. Through the process of voluntary redundancies and … in trying to redeploy workers into unaffected areas of the business – because they will still have product development and engineering side of the business open – they have managed to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies down to 199.

“Of that number there are 72 at Geelong and 127 at Broadmeadows.”

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Smith said Ford had decided to stop production at both plants today as it talks individually with all of its employees.

“The company has closed production for the day,” he confirmed.

“They’ll pay everyone but they’ve allocated times to come in and they will sit down with them individually and advise them of whether they have a position or not, and as part of that process they will make sure that there are counsellors available.”

Smith praised Ford Australia for its handling of the compulsory redundancies, believing it was doing its best in a tough situation, though said that didn’t take any of the sting out of a sad day for the company and Australia’s manufacturing industry.

“In difficult circumstances I think they have tried and done a pretty good job to respect their workers. They’re doing what they can to try to transition people into new employment.

“But some of the older workers, some that have injuries from doing that repetitive type of work, it’s going to be very difficult for them.”

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Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood would not be drawn on specifics of the redundancies, but confirmed to CarAdvice that the company expected to have about 450 employees at Broadmeadows and 350 at Geelong once all the planned “separations” had taken place.

On June 10, Ford reduced local vehicle production from 133 to 83 vehicles per day, and Sherwood said it was the company’s plan to maintain that level throughout the rest of 2014. Sales of Ford’s Australian-made vehicles are down more than 30 per cent this year, totalling 8136 to the end of May. Falcon Ute sales have fallen 37 per cent to 1182 units, while the Territory is 34 per cent off last year’s pace (3944) and the Falcon is down 23 per cent (3010).

Sherwood acknowledged the sad nature of the redundancies, but emphasised the new opportunities created by Ford’s work with the federal and state governments.

“We invested $10 million in the government’s investment and job creation fund and that has already led to about 15 companies receiving investment, and in turn they’ve committed to more than 500 new jobs in areas affected by our manufacturing transition,” Sherwood said.

“So that’s really the emphasis we’ve put on this to help our employees transition a little more easily in a very difficult situation.”

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Smith said optimism remained among Ford Australia’s employees in spite of the slow death of its local manufacturing operations, revealing that the arrival of the significantly updated Falcon in November was reason for hope.

“I’ve seen the car and it’s a terrific-looking vehicle, even though it’s only been modified at the back and the front ends.

“I saw an XR8 and I think it really hits the mark, and so hopefully when that vehicle comes out it will activate a little more interest in the vehicles again and they will be able to stay until October 2016.”




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